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Drought conditions in fall of 2022 resemble fall of 2020

Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension environmental stewardship specialist, said conditions in fall of 2022 are "comparable" to fall of 2020. And the Drought Severity and Coverage Index, as reported on the U.S. Drought Monitor, shows that overall, most states in the region are in worse shape now than they were at the same time in 2020.

Drought-grass.JPG
Drought conditions continue to intensify in the region, with conditions in fall of 2022 resembling conditions in fall of 2020. By March 2021, when this photo was taken, lack of moisture in the fall and winter meant little new growth had emerged.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek file photo
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Drought continues to intensify across the region, with some states looking similar to their drought status in the fall of 2020.

Following an exceptionally wet fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, conditions across the region began to dry out in fall of 2020, leading into an exceptionally dry spring and summer of 2021 for most of the region. Moisture in the fall of 2021 and winter of 2021-22 brought most of the region out of drought conditions.

Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension environmental stewardship specialist, said conditions in fall of 2022 are "comparable" to fall of 2020. And the Drought Severity and Coverage Index, as reported on the U.S. Drought Monitor, shows that overall, most states in the region are in worse shape now than they were at the same time in 2020.

For example, North Dakota's Drought Severity and Coverage Index — a 0 to 500 scale measuring drought intensity — was at 204 as of Oct. 11, 2022, compared to 169 as of Oct. 13, 2020. The state was considered abnormally dry or worse on 98.95% of land on Oct. 11.

South Dakota's DSCI was at 190, compared to 154 in 2020. South Dakota had 94.55% of land considered abnormally dry or worse, with 1.25% of the state — all in the southeast corner — considered in exceptional drought, the worst drought rating as of Oct. 11.

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Minnesota's DSCI was at 132, compared to 60 in 2020. As of Oct. 11, 4.2% of Minnesota is considered in extreme drought.

All of Iowa was considered abnormally dry or worse on Oct. 11, with 7.07% in extreme drought, and the DSCI was at 192, compared to 160 in 2020.

Nebraska and Montana, along with other states to the south and west, have been dealing with drought throughout the growing season. Nebraska's DSCI as of Oct. 11 was at 324, compared to 238 in 2020. Montana's DSCI was at 217, compared to 167 in 2020. Montana has 13.29% of the state in extreme drought as of Oct. 11, and Nebraska had 11.49% in exceptional drought and 22.19% in extreme drought.

Meehan said grazing management is an important topic for ranchers heading into the fall. In the autumn, cool season grasses are producing their tillers, which are used to help the grass grow in the spring. Overgrazing at this time of year can impact tiller growth. If tillers die in the fall, the plants have to grow new tillers in the spring. But dry conditions also can play a part.

"Another factor that influences are tiller growth is drought status, so that is another thing that can cause those tillers to die — drought stress," she said.

NDSU Extension offers a grazing measurement stick that ranchers can use in their grasses to make sure they are not over grazed .

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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