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Angie Peltier

Angie Peltier
Former Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture

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Hill and Furrow

Current topics about crop production in Western Illinois, including field crops research at the NWIARDC in Monmouth.
Figure 2. Map of predicted U.S. precipitation outlook for October through December 2012; areas shaded in green and labeled
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The 2012 fall forecast - replenishing and conserving soil moisture

As the 2012 growing season draws to a close, the topic that was on everyone's mind all season long - weather - continues to be an important and 'hot' topic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center (NOAA-CPC) recently released their 3-month temperature and precipitation outlook for the period of October through December 31st, 2012.

According to the CPC's meteorologists and physical scientists, Illinois is predicted to have an increased chance of above normal temperatures this fall (Figure 1).

The long-term forecast for precipitation, however, is less certain. According to the CPC team, there is an equal chance that Illinois will experience normal, above normal and below normal levels of precipitation this fall (Figure 2). This uncertainty might leave folks with some worry, particularly after the 2012 drought.

Drought Monitor

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 76.6 percent of the total land area of the contiguous United States is experiencing some degree of drought, with the worst drought conditions (exceptional drought) throughout the central plains region. In Illinois, 96.9 percent of the state is still abnormally dry, with 66.6 percent of the state's area under at least moderate drought conditions (Figure 3). Conditions have improved since August, when the drought reached its peak in Illinois. On August 7, 81.2 percent of the land area in Illinois was experiencing extreme drought conditions, while only 6.7 percent of the state is now (Figure 4). The U.S. Drought Monitor website has an animation to help visualize how drought conditions have changed over the past 12 weeks.

Will we have enough moisture for the 2013 growing season?

Now that folks have an idea of how the 2012 drought affected their yields, the next question becomes: will we be able to replenish soil moisture before 2013? As I am no weather expert, I decided to ask an expert. Dr. Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey, was kind enough to provide an answer.

Dr. Angel says that many factors are in our favor, including the weather patterns that typically occur in Illinois over the fall and winter months, "We have more than 6 months to replenish soil moisture. Because there is little demand on the moisture in the soil until next year, any precipitation that we receive between now and planting will help to recharge soil moisture. Illinois is typically a pretty wet state; we almost always recharge depleted soil moisture by the next growing season".

Conserving Soil Moisture

Although yield values have not yet been compiled, anecdotally it seemed that the most drought stressed corn at the NWIARDC was grown both after corn and in tilled fields. Conservation tillage and drainage water management can help to conserve soil moisture. The University of Illinois Agronomy Handbook is a good reference and covers 15 topics in detail including soil management and tillage, cropping systems, and water management.



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