Drought worsens locally, across Minnesota

July 13, 2023

MANKATO — Drought conditions continue to incrementally grow worse in the Greater Mankato region and across the state.

All of the state is now in some level of abnormally dry or drought condition, according to the new Drought Monitor map released Thursday, with data through Tuesday.

While Blue Earth and Nicollet counties had been listed as just abnormally dry in recent weeks, about half of both counties are now in moderate drought.

Almost all the southwest corner of the state remains abnormally dry. Fifty-two percent of the state is now in moderate drought. Central and east-central Minnesota is in a severe drought as is the area in and around Olmsted County in southeast Minnesota. Eleven percent of the state is in severe drought, and none of the state is in extreme drought.

"Central and southeast Minnesota are suffering a lot more than we are," said Tom Hoverstad, a scientist at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca

Paul Torkelson farms near St. James in the area that is in the abnormally dry range.

"We did have about a half inch the night before last. That helps some but we need a lot more than that."

He said the corn crop is very uneven, something that's been persistent all year.

"Tassels are showing up in more and more fields. That little rain we had is certainly good for the pollination. The crop is in a critical stage," Torkelson said.

"Corn likes warm days and cool nights, and the last week or so, that's what we've had."

He said the soybean crop looks good, with the critical growing stage for them in August. "The August weather has a huge impact on yields," Torkelson said.

Hoverstad said the upcoming two weeks are the most important for corn. "Stress from heat or drought affect how many kernels are set, and once they're set, it won't change, they can't add more later."

Torkelson said modern crop hybrids help the corn crops. "If we can get pollination, these modern hybrids seem to really grow cobs even in tough conditions. It's a lot different than the corn we had when I started farming," he said.

Hoverstad said much of southern Minnesota continued to benefit from heavy rains and lots of melting snow early this year.

"For the calendar year, we just now slipped below normal precipitation. So we're drawing on all that precipitation we got early in the year and have gotten just enough rains to keep going.”

He said normal precipitation through July 12 is 19.75 inches and it's now at 19.17 inches.

"But from now on we'd really like to see an inch a week," Hoverstad said.

The 10-day forecast for Mankato doesn't bode well for getting that inch a week.

There is just a single digit to mid 20 percent chance of rain each of the next 10 days.

Scattered thunderstorms will be possible anywhere in Minnesota Thursday evening and overnight.