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Field conditions varying by moisture throughout region

LANSING, Mich. — The Midwest and Upper South have been experiencing variable weather conditions, including both above- and below-normal precipitation, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

In Michigan, it has been abnormally dry across much of the state, with this condition extending south to northwestern Ohio and parts of northern Indiana. Soybean plants are reportedly less than 2 feet high in some parts of Michigan.

Some soybean fields in southeastern Lower Michigan, about 40 miles north of Detroit, appeared to be well under 2 feet as of last week. In some fields leaves were flipped and showing their undersides, the Drought Monitor reported.

Some soybeans were planted late this year, said Mark Seaman, a grower near Saginaw and research coordinator with the Michigan Soybean Assoc. There was too much rain in the month of May, and then farmers felt pressured to plant, even though conditions were less than ideal.

Then, later in the summer, hot and dry weather hit these crops, too, further affecting their growth. But, Seaman noted, soybeans planted early on seem to be doing fine.

At the opposite extreme, eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as some border areas of Ohio and Indiana, have experienced a great deal of rain, with some of these areas getting as many as 5 inches late last month, the Monitor showed.

Moving west, dryness prevailed, with little to no rain falling on much of Illinois, eastern Missouri and western Iowa during this time. In Missouri topsoil conditions were 77 percent short to very short. In these places precipitation has been 25-50 percent below normal for the past month, according to the Monitor.

These dry conditions were also introduced into central Wisconsin and southeastern Illinois, and expanded into parts of northern Minnesota.

In Indiana minimal, isolated rain for the week ending July 29 brought cooler temperatures, but did little to restore soil moisture, according to the latest crop weather report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). There were six days available for fieldwork for the same week; however, corn and soybeans weathered the less-than-ideal conditions well, with few reports of fields showing drought stress.

“We had precipitation Monday and Tuesday and that was across most of the state,” said Greg Matli, NASS statistician for Indiana, last week. “I don't know what the totals were – one-half to 2 inches; some places got 3 inches. Some people have been saying there was some drought stress, but the rain may have eliminated that.”

According to the latest NASS crop weather report for Ohio, mostly hot and dry weather continued for the week ending July 29. “Rain continued to be spotty, providing little relief to crops,” said Cheryl Turner, NASS statistician for the state.

There were 5.7 days suitable for fieldwork in Ohio during the week ending July, with crops looking good but in need of more water. The National Weather Service confirmed a weak tornado touched down in Lucas County on July 31, intermittently touching along a five-mile path, mostly damaging trees; however, a barn roof was significantly damaged in the city of Oregon. Some cars were also reportedly displaced.

According to the latest crop weather report for Illinois, there were 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork the last week of July. Statewide, the average temperature was 71.3 degrees, 3.7 below normal.

Precipitation averaged 0.19 inch, 0.66 inch below normal. Topsoil moisture supply was rated at 5 percent very short, 22 percent short, 69 percent adequate and 4 percent surplus.

Progress of field crops in Illinois seemed to be above average, with corn dough reaching 64 percent, compared to 32 last year. Corn dented reached 6 percent, compared to 1 percent last year. Field corn was rated at 80 percent either good or excellent.

Soybeans blooming reached 92 percent, compared to 86 percent last year. Soybeans setting pods was at 77 percent, compared to 48 last year. Soybeans were rated at 75 percent good or excellent, while sorghum was rated at 69 percent good or excellent.

Kentucky and Tennessee have also experienced too much dry weather lately. The latest crop weather report for Kentucky says “overall, crop conditions have started to decline. as many areas are in need of precipitation.”

University of Tennessee extension agent Kenny Herndon is quoted in the Tennessee NASS report saying crop and pasture land are showing the results of a couple weeks of dry weather, with some soybean fields appearing to struggle. Also, there is some corn twisting and browning.

In a separate interview last week, UT extension specialist Ty Raper said despite the dryness, thus far the cotton is holding up well.

“Our crop is about 10 days ahead of where we are usually at this time of year,” he said. “We have very good fruit retention, but we could use some rain. Up until July 20 rains were pretty consistent, but then we entered into a little dry spell.

“As long as we can get some rain soon, we should end up with a pretty good yield.”