Expert Alert

Understanding this season’s drought outlook as farmers head into the fields

Image of Jeffrey Strock
Jeffrey Strock, Ph.D.

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (04/19/2022) —  As Minnesota farmers prepare to head into their fields and begin planting crops this spring, many are hoping to avoid the high temperatures and moisture deficits that resulted in drought conditions for much of the state last year. 

According to the recently released U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map from the Climate Prediction Center, there is an equal chance of below normal, near normal and above normal precipitation through at least June of this year. 

Jeffrey Strock, a professor at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center, provides expert comment on what these possibilities mean for local farmers this planting season. 

Jeffrey Strock, Ph.D.

“Local data suggests that precipitation last fall and recent rains, snow and gradual melting have helped replenish soil moisture near the surface, but additional precipitation is needed to recharge depleted moisture deeper in the soil profile.

Precipitation is highly variable and unpredictable. If dry conditions persist, it is important to conserve as much pre-plant soil moisture as possible. Reducing the number of tillage operations that turn moist soil to the top of the ground will help reduce moisture losses.

Maintaining crop residue at or near the soil surface for as long as possible will save moisture and reduce erosion. Cover crops can increase water infiltration rates and water storage capacity.  Overwintering cover crops will use water as they put on new growth in the spring and can negatively affect the following cash crop if not managed well.

If air temperatures and soils warm up quickly and moderately dry conditions continue, farmers may be able to get planting done quickly. If dry conditions persist after planting, crop root systems will grow relatively deep into the ground in search of moisture. If timely rainfalls occur during the growing season, farmers could expect average to above-average yields. If conditions remain cool and planting is delayed, coupled with extended dry conditions, farmers could expect below average yields.” 

Jeffrey Strock is a professor in the Department of Soil, Water & Climate and works at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center. His areas of interest include soil hydrology, water quality and fertility. His research and outreach activities focus on soil hydrology, agricultural drainage and nutrient management in agricultural systems. 


About the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences 
The University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) strives to inspire minds, nourish people, and sustainably enhance the natural environment. CFANS has a legacy of innovation, bringing discoveries to life through science and educating the next generation of leaders. Every day, students, faculty, and researchers use science to address the grand challenges of the world today and in the future. CFANS offers an unparalleled expanse of experiential learning opportunities for students and the community, with 12 academic departments, 10 research and outreach centers across the state, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Bell Museum of Natural History, and dozens of interdisciplinary centers. 

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Lori Fligge

College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, Twin Cities