While some areas in southeastern South Dakota received beneficial amounts of rain last week from storms that crossed the region, about 95% of South Dakota is still affected by either drought or abnormally-dry conditions during the last half of July.
Climatologists and researchers with the U.S. Drought Monitor categorized the entire area in Lake County last week as having drought conditions. The southwest half of the county was experiencing extreme-drought conditions. They had also declared the northeast half of the county as having severe drought conditions in mid-July.
The only area in South Dakota that is not considered abnormally dry or experiencing some sort of drought conditions is in the southwestern corner around the city of Custer in Custer and Fall River counties.
U.S. Drought Monitor researchers reported some improvements along the middle Missouri River basin, which includes parts of eastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska. Some parts of the middle basin received more than 2 inches of rain, which was more than 1 inch above the traditional amounts of rainfall for that week in the region.
At the same time, other parts of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas experienced below-normal precipitation, causing further deterioration of their drought conditions.
The U.S. Drought Monitor uses information of different types and varied sources such as rain and snowfall amounts, streamflow, reservoir levels and soil moisture to complete its weekly reports. The researchers also review any recent photos and personal reports.
Climatologists and meteorologists tell the public that recent rainfall may ease their concerns about drought conditions, but the precipitation may not provide relief from long-term moisture deficits and not rejuvenate hard, dry soil.
At the start of last week, researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that across South Dakota, topsoil moisture was rated as 39% very short and 43% short. Only 18% of the state's topsoil moisture was rated as adequate, and none was rated as having surplus moisture. Subsoil moisture was rated as 41% very short and 42% short. Only 17% of South Dakota's subsoil moisture was rated as adequate last week with none considered as having surplus subsoil moisture.
Within the USDA's field crops report for last week, the state's corn crop overall was rated as 45% fair, 18% poor and 6% very poor. On the positive side, 30% of South Dakota's corn crop was rated good and 1% was considered excellent. The USDA researchers reported that 5% of the corn crop was in the silking stage -- 14% behind 2020 and 13% behind the five-year average. For corn crops, the silking stage provides an important step in the pollination process for corn ears.
Soybean conditions across South Dakota were rated as 6% very poor, 22% poor and 44% fair. Other soybean fields were rated as 27% good and 1% excellent. The soybean bloom stage was reported at 34% -- behind 2020's 47% and the five-year average of 39%. The setting-pod stage for soybeans was reported at 1% -- behind 2020's 12% but close to the five-year average of 5%.
The U.S. Drought Monitor is a joint, ongoing project conducted at the National Drought Mitigation Center through a partnership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USDA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.