National Drought Mitigation Center


U.S. Crops in Drought through April 28, 2015: Drought cuts into California planting intentions, but dryness helps Midwest planting progress quickly

April 30, 2015

During the four-week period ending on April 28, 2015, contiguous U.S. drought coverage rose to 37.41 percent -- an increase of just over one-half (0.57) percentage point.

by Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board

In general, drought development or expansion was noted during April across the nation’s northern tier, from the Pacific Northwest to the upper Midwest. In contrast, wet conditions led to drought improvement or elimination across southern section of the Rockies and Plains and in parts of the Southeast.

In California, drought covered more than 98 percent of the state by the end of April. With drought moving into a fourth year, and extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) covering two-thirds of California, large reductions in agricultural output can be expected again in 2015. According to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, issued on March 31, California’s planting intentions for cotton, corn, oats, barley, wheat, rice, and sunflowers will total 1.72 million acres in 2015, down from 1.90 million acres in 2014 and 2.44 million acres in 2013. The intended California cotton acreage of 155,000 acres, if realized, will be down 45 percent from 2 years ago.

According to the latest “agriculture in drought” statistics, drought coverage for domestic hay acreage and U.S. cattle inventory was unchanged in April at 28 and 36 percent, respectively.

The portion of the U.S. winter wheat crop in drought inched upward from 43 to 44 percent during April. Although April precipitation helped to stabilize wheat conditions from Nebraska southward, a significant portion of the crop—20 percent nationally—remained in very poor to poor condition due to drought and the aftereffects of winter weather extremes. On April 26, nearly one-third of the winter wheat was rated very poor to poor in South Dakota (33 percent), Nebraska (32 percent), and Kansas (31 percent).

On April 28, drought covered 26 percent of the U.S. corn production area and 22 percent of the soybean area. Those numbers are up sharply from early March 2015, when just 6 percent of the corn and 5 percent of the soybeans were in drought. Despite the upper Midwestern drought development, producers are still optimistic for a favorable growing season if spring rains develop—especially since the dry conditions have led to rapid planting progress. By April 26, Minnesota led the Midwest with 38 percent of its intended corn acreage already planted, compared to the five-year average of 20 percent.

Weather Outlook: Generally tranquil weather will prevail for the remainder of the week, except for some locally heavy rain through Friday in the Mid-Atlantic region. An eastward expansion of warmth will accompany the quiet pattern. Late in the weekend and early next week, widespread precipitation will develop across the Intermountain West and from the central and southern Rockies northeastward into the Great Lakes region. As a result, 5-day rainfall totals could reach 1 to 2 inches from the central Plains to Michigan. Elsewhere, mostly dry weather will prevail into next week across the Far West and the Southeast, except in southern Florida. Across Florida’s peninsula, heavy showers could return early next week.

PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, June 4, 2015, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will still be produced on a weekly basis, and can be viewed online:

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded: