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Closer Look At Soil Moisture Following Drought

January 7, 2013, 5:18 PM by Brian Karstens

Closer Look At Soil Moisture Following Drought
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

The drought left the soil depleted of critical moisture.  There are several critical factors to getting it recharged in the New Year.

There are many ways to measure the impact of a drought, but the most critical numbers that will carry over from last year are the soil moisture deficits.  In agriculture, it's very important to monitor the available moisture in the root zone, which is water that will be available for the plants to use next growing season.

The northeast is in the best shape with deficits a little more than 2 inches.  The deficits grow on average in southern KELOLAND.  Sioux Falls is about 4.75" below normal, while the Yankton and Gregory area has a soil moisture deficit of 5.5".  Conditions are even worse just south of the Nebraska border where the drought is the worst.

To put it another way, those number represent how much water is needed to soak into the ground to recharge the soil to normal levels.  By the start of the growing season, we would normally have about five to seven inches of water in the soil ready for crops to tap in the root zone.  Right now, we have less than two inches in the ground in many areas south of I-90 in the worst drought areas.  Remember that's the water needed to soak into the ground, not the amount of precipitation needed to correct the drought. 

Rain that fall too fast or falls over frozen ground won't help much.  If it's warm next spring, faster evaporation rates would complicate the recharge and add another layer of uncertainty to a challenging drought forecast.

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