If Minnesota’s current weather models for July hold true, climatologist Mark Seeley is concerned that the state’s farmers could lose as much as a quarter of their crop.
State of play: A scorching hot June has put 5% of the state into a severe drought, 56% into a moderate drought and the rest into the abnormally dry category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
- The heat and lack of rain has dried rivers to near record low levels and turned lawns brown.
- But the biggest concern is the farmers, according to Seeley.
Threat level: Minnesota’s two biggest crops — corn and soybeans — are largely reliant on rain, unlike other warmer states where crops are mostly irrigated.
- “We’re recovering from a pandemic and we’re all hoping that the economy will continue to take off … If the agricultural economy is hit really hard by drought this year, then that’s going to be a definite setback to the state,” said Seeley, a retired University of Minnesota meteorologist and climatologist of 40 years.
Flashback: The state’s last big drought came in 2012. But the most recent extreme drought — one that climatologists and farmers still talk about — was back in 1988.
- Corn and soybean farmers lost 35-40% of their yield that year and Seeley said it took three years to recover.
What he’s watching: If Minnesota gets into the extreme drought zone, it will test the new drought-resistant crop genetics that weren’t around back in the 1980s, Seeley said.
- “With the new genetics, if they’ve done it right, maybe that’ll mean we’ll only see a 20% or 30% reduction in crop yields,” he said.
What’s ahead: It’s going to warm back into the 90s Wednesday and Thursday before a slight cool down into the 80s.
- There’s about a 50% chance of rain on Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service.