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Even as drought eases, toll on Minnesota crops appears to be final

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Even as drought eases, toll on Minnesota crops appears to be final

Despite an abating drought in the southern portion of Minnesota, scientists who analyze the statewide monitor say its lingering effects have the left the majority of the state’s croplands in poor condition.

As of this week’s Drought Monitor update, 63 percent of the state’s croplands are in “very poor to poor condition.” Topsoil moisture was significantly reduced in every Midwestern state except Wisconsin.

Drought analyst Brad Rippey, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said croplands are worse across the north and western portions of Minnesota, where most counties are in extreme drought and a strip of the state faces exceptional drought.

Drought conditions gradually recede toward the southeastern corner of the state. Most of the nine-county region of south-central Minnesota remains in a moderate drought, while the middle third of Minnesota is split between moderate and severe conditions.

“For a lot of the state — really for the entire Upper Midwest — it’s going to be a disappointing harvest this year,” Rippey said, referencing drought conditions in the Dakotas. “The heat and the drought definitely took a toll on major row crops like corn and soybeans.”

He added that recovery is improbable given the shortening days and cooling weather. Farmers in southernl Minnesota typically spend October harvesting crops, first soybeans and then corn.

The latest USDA forecast indicates farmers in Minnesota expect an average corn yield of 174 bushels per acre, an 18-bushel decrease from last year’s figure. The projection is a stark contrast to last fall’s excellent harvest, where one farmer near Le Center said he grew his best corn crop and many peers were harvesting 225 to 235 bushels per acre.

Soybean yields in the state are only slightly below last year’s mark, at 47 bushels per acre instead of 49, because of timely late-summer rains.

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