By Olivia Maddox
June 15, 2012
Drought conditions around Indiana took a turn for the worse with 88 percent of the state now affected by ongoing dry weather, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday (June 14).
The Drought Monitor, a service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is updated weekly and reflected conditions as of Tuesday (June 12).
Total Indiana land area affected by drought jumped 40 percent since the last Drought Monitor was released last week. Only a cluster of 11 counties in southeast Indiana, about 12 percent of the state, are not affected. Moderate drought has spread to cover about three-fourths of northern Indiana while most of central Indiana is considered abnormally dry. Five counties in southwestern Indiana are rated in severe drought.
The high-pressure system that has dominated the Midwest in recent weeks has prevented weather changes - including fronts bringing much-needed rain - from moving into the area, according to the Indiana State Climate Office based at Purdue University. The next possibility for showers is sometime late next week, but state climatologist Dev Niyogi said soil is losing moisture at a rate faster than it can be replaced.
"We should not fall into false security if we get rain," Niyogi said. "Every passing day we are losing more moisture from the soil because of the growing crops. It will take time, conservation and much-needed rains to reverse."
More soybeans around the state are showing signs of stress, said Purdue Extension agronomist Shaun Casteel. "I'm seeing more plants flipping leaves over to reflect the sun," he said. "These plants can probably recover without too much damage if we get rain."
In areas of severe drought, leaves have started clamping down, meaning plants are going into survival mode.
Some fields have become islands where some plants have emerged and others haven't, Casteel said. "Late-planted beans in dry soil might still emerge with rainfall. However, if the seed has cracked open and the root emerged it could become a worst-case scenario."
After several weeks with little or no rain, the condition of the state's corn crop runs the gamut, said Purdue Extension agronomist Bob Nielsen.
Several areas of the state are under severe stress and, early in the growing season, Nielsen said there's already concern about the impact it will have on yield. Other areas around the state are not exhibiting drought symptoms.
"If we begin to get rain, the corn crop won't recover completely, but it will be better than we thought," Nielsen said.
More moderate temperatures since Memorial Day have helped, Nielsen said, but a return to hotter weather and continued drought could tip the scales.
"We're tip-toeing on the edge of something serious," he said. "Right now, it's wait-and-see; it could go either way."
Nielsen said the corn crop under the most stress is consistent with areas of severest drought in the U.S. Drought Monitor, including counties in southwestern, north central and northeastern Indiana.