Much of the Great Plains is experiencing drought: So far, at least half of Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa, and Oklahoma are abnormally dry, with large areas experiencing severe drought.

As harvest draws to a close, farmers in Nebraska, Iowa, and Oklahoma are seeing easier harvests but reduced yields due to dryness. Overall, reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest most crops held their own this summer, with both soybean and corn harvests once more predicted to hit record levels. But a lack of fall rain could spell problems for farmers in the spring.

Brian Fuchs at the National Drought Center says soils across the Great Plains have one job now: recharge.

“Any moisture that we can add into the soil now — before we have the soils freeze up — is going to be moisture that is available next spring when we plant that next crop,” he said.

Fuchs says drought conditions accelerated quickly this summer in several states like Nebraska.

“Since July, we've had a 67% increase in drought,” he said. “So not only have we seen drought continue to develop in the state, but we've also seen drought intensification.”

“Even though plants and crops are not using that moisture, we're still losing some of that moisture with the temperatures and windy conditions,” Fuchs explained. “I do know out in western Nebraska, winter wheat has been planted into some fairly dry soils … that crop is off to a poor start.”

Read the full article about severe drought by Christina Stella at Harvest Public Media.