As the usual Thursday U.S. Drought Monitor map came out on July 26, the area in D4, the worst category of drought, grew a little larger, encompassing parts of Wabaunsee, Lyon and Morris counties.
Extreme drought continues in all or part of 18 counties in central and eastern Kansas. Severe drought is widespread from south-central to northeast Kansas.
Oddly, this summer has reversed the usual pattern of drought that Kansas has come to expect. Western Kansas has largely been spared, while the eastern half of the state has been brutally dry. Most drought patterns hit much harder in the western part of the state.
So far, corn has been the only fall crop to see devastating losses. Thousands of acres of corn in the extreme drought finger has already been chopped for silage. Soybeans, so far, are still looking healthy for the most part. Cotton is flourishing, and sunflowers are holding up well. Sorghum planted early is already headed out and appears to be at least an average crop.
Intensive grazing season is coming to an end and stockers are being pulled off the pastures in the Flint Hills, but cow-calf producers enduring exceptional drought are suffering, especially when it comes to water supplies. Most springs have dried up and farm ponds are almost dry. Some have even been fenced off to prevent cows and calves from getting mired down in the mud.
On July 26, the weather radar map showed a pattern that those ranchers have seen all too often. A line of storms formed north of Salina and inched toward them, only to split in half and move north and south of them.
Farm Service Agency executive director David Schemm says his office is seeing a number of ranchers utilizing Conservation Reserve Program land for haying or grazing. Emergency declarations allowing that relief are in effect for most of eastern Kansas.
Meanwhile, Kansas looks downright lovely compared to conditions in Colorado where almost the entire southern half of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought.
Conditions have improved in Oklahoma and Texas over the last six weeks or so with the worst two categories covering only a spot here and there.