Rains partly relieve drought in southern states
Wheat harvest expected to be significantly lower than last year.
Thu, May 19, 2011 at 10:50 AM
KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Rains over the last week brought some relief to the drought-ravaged southern Plains, though parts of Texas saw the worst of the drought actually expand, a report from U.S. climatologists said on Thursday.
Texas, suffering its longest dry spell on record, saw the highest level of drought — dubbed "exceptional" by climatologists — move from 47.56 percent to 47.87 percent of the state, according to the Drought Monitor report released on Thursday by a consortium of national climate experts.
Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures rallied nearly 20 percent from last week and hit a three-month high on worries the drought will harm the U.S. wheat crop.
The U.S. winter wheat crop is forecast to be the smallest in five years due to the drought.
Overall levels of severe and extreme drought decreased slightly but still remained a problem for more than 80 percent of the key U.S. farm state.
Kansas, the top wheat-growing state, also saw the expansion of severe, extreme and exceptional levels of drought across the state, with most dire drought conditions concentrated in the south-central and southwest parts of the state.
Kansas now has 50 percent of the state suffering severe levels of drought or worse, according to the report, up from 41 percent last week.
Wheat harvest is underway now and production is expected to be curtailed substantially because of the drought.
But while farmers and ranchers continued to suffer damages to crops and livestock, farmers to the north and east saw rain relief over the last week.
Rains fell on drought-stricken portions of central and eastern Texas and central Oklahoma, as well as on already saturated middle Mississippi, Tennessee, and through the Ohio Valley, the Drought Monitor report said.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
On the Web: Drought Monitor map
Copyright 2011 Reuters Environmental Online Report