Drought conditions expanded in the past week in the central and southern Plains where winter wheat is struggling to grow and in California where irrigation water is running low, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday.
Nearly all of Kansas, the top wheat state, has been in moderate to severe drought, but the latest release adds an area of extreme drought in the central region. Extreme western Kansas has been in an extreme drought.
Most of the Texas Panhandle is under exceptional drought, the Monitor's highest drought rating, as was much of western edge of Oklahoma. Extreme drought prevailed over much of northern Texas and western Oklahoma.
Forecasts call for the next 6- to 10-day and 8- to 14-day periods called for drier-than-normal conditions across the Southwest and Great Plains into the Midwest. Wetter-than-normal conditions were likely in the Southeast, Ohio Valley, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest, it said.
The drought has hurt much of the hard red winter wheat, which is growing after being dormant over the winter. On Monday, the Kansas wheat was rated 24% good to excellent, 44% fair, 21% poor and 11% very poor.
More than half of the Texas and Oklahoma wheat was rated poor to very poor. In Texas, the area of exceptional drought increased to 12.5% in the latest week from 10.3%, while 48.5% of the state had severe to exceptional drought, up more than 4% in a week.
"Most of the South was drier than normal this week, continuing a pattern which has dominated the last six months or longer," the Drought Monitor website said.
The drought area was mostly unchanged in the Midwest. In Iowa, where farmers are working to plant corn and soybeans, much of the state ranged from abnormally dry to moderate drought with the driest regions on the western edge.
Illinois was largely drought-free, with only 7% rated extremely dry to moderate drought, unchanged from the previous week. Conditions in Nebraska, a major corn and wheat state, were unchanged with pockets of extreme drought in the southwest corner and lesser drought readings throughout the rest of the state.
In California, a major agriculture state, areas of severe to extreme drought expanded in the northern area and exceptional drought expanded near San Francisco. Irrigation water is short and many wells are either dry or are low.
"This week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor that 100% of California was in moderate to exceptional drought," according to the Monitor's website.
The Drought Monitor is produced in partnership by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.