Dryness turns to drought in Northwest Indiana

2013-09-05T18:53:00Z 2013-09-06T10:09:06Z Dryness turns to drought in Northwest IndianaJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com nwitimes.com
September 05, 2013 6:53 pm  • 

Drought has returned to much of Northwest Indiana, but it is nowhere near as bad as the severe drought that devastated much of the state's crops last year and is not expected to raise prices at the grocery store.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates Lake, Newton, Warren and Benton counties are in moderate drought after weeks of dry conditions. The drought comes too late in the year to have much of an effect on corn, but could reduce soybean yields.

"Rainfall has been scarce in most counties for a few weeks now," said Ken Scheeringa, associate climatologist with the Indiana State Climate office, which is based at Purdue University in West Lafayette. "Drought conditions in Illinois were worsening and on the move eastward and have now reached Indiana."

No rain has been forecast for the remainder of the week, according to the climate office.

Crops have suffered for weeks from a lack of meaningful rainfall. About 66 percent of the state's corn crop remained in good condition at the end of August, and only 62 percent of soybean crops are still in good shape, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corn is too far along in its maturity to be affected much by drought at this stage, but soybeans are at the point where they will shrink if they do not get moisture, said Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue.

Yields likely will be smaller than originally anticipated, Hurt said. The drought could have a dramatic effect on some farmers since Northwest Indiana soils are sandier and require more water, but the overall impact should be small.

Prices in the grocery aisle likely will not be affected, since yields still will be dramatically higher than last year, when much of the state was in a disastrous Stage 4 drought, Hurt said. This year's drought is classified at Stage 1.

"There's a drought, and then there's a drought," he said.

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