Economic Tidbits

July Showers Bring Greening Plains

July rains, many areas of Nebraska reported 5 inches or more, have lessened the grip of drought in the state. The August 3 drought monitor from the UNL Drought Mitigation Center shows 64 percent of Nebraska under some form of drought. A year ago, drought clutched 77 percent of the state. Today, 32 percent of Nebraska is under severe, extreme, or exceptional form of drought. Last year, 47 percent was categorized as such. In fact, most Panhandle counties, locus of exceptional drought conditions last year, are today completely free of drought. The worst conditions now encompass portions of Central and Eastern Nebraska. But even these areas have seen recovery. 

The improving conditions are seen in the latest soil moisture and pasture conditions. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate weekly subsoil moisture conditions using data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service crop progress reports. Figure 1 plots weekly “very short” subsoil moisture ratings this year compared to 2012 and 2010-2022 averages. Figure 2 shows the same data for “short” subsoil moisture ratings. Ratings are shown for weeks 13 through 43, roughly April through October.

Very short subsoil moisture weekly ratings averaged between 6-18 percent between 2010-2022, with the latter half of the growing season drier than the first. Figure 1 shows moisture levels have been replenished this year. At the start of the growing season, 37 percent of subsoil rated very short of moisture. Now, according to the July 30 crop progress report, 26 percent of subsoil is very short of moisture. Still, even with the progress, subsoil rated very short remains above the 13-year average. Short moisture ratings have improved this year also. Currently, 34 percent of the state’s subsoil is rated short of moisture compared to 41 percent entering the growing season. But like the very short ratings, subsoil rated short of moisture remains 6 points above the average for this time of year, 28 percent. 


Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service


Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

Note: Data on pasture conditions was not available for every week in every year. Thus, the 2010-2022 weekly averages were calculated using data for weeks and years available.

Figure 3 compares the percent of pasture and rangeland classified as “poor” and “very poor” this year with 2012 and the 2010-2022 averages. As can be seen, pasture and range conditions this year have improved significantly. Entering the growing season 68 percent of pasture was rated poor or very poor, well above average. Presently, just 15 percent is rated in poor or very poor condition. And current conditions are better than what is typical for the end of July. Between 2010-2022, pasture conditions rated poor or very poor at this time of year averaged 25 percent. 

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