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Published May 23, 2013, 10:53 AM

Recent rains moderate drought

South Dakota sees noticeable improvement.

By: Agweek Staff Report, Agweek

Widespread mid-May rains reduced drought severity on the Northern Plains, according to the May 23 weekly report of the U.S. Drought Monitor, a partnership of federal and academic scientists.

Many parts of the region received 1 to 3 inches of rain, with some areas in northeast North Dakota receiving as much as 7 inches, farmers, ranchers and extension officials tell Agweek.

Improvement was most noticeable in South Dakota. Five percent of the state is free of drought; the entire state was in drought a week earlier. The drought-free area is in the northeast part of the state.

Other improvement in South Dakota included a decline in the percentage of the state classified as extremely dry, the fourth worst of five drought categories. Only 6 percent of the state is extremely dry, down from 21 percent a week earlier.

Minnesota saw small improvement in the moderately dry, severely dry and extremely dry classifications. Drought’s biggest impact comes in north-central and southwest Minnesota.

In North Dakota, 71 percent of the state is free of drought, compared with 51 percent a week earlier. Parts of eastern and southwest North Dakota remain short of moisture.

Montana saw little change overall. The northern half of the state is free of drought, while moisture shortages remain in the southern half.

Keep in mind that the Drought Monitor isn’t meant to be a guide to current growing conditions.

Extension officials in southern Montana tell Agweek that the mid-May rains were a big help to struggling crops and pastures, though more rain will be needed.