Based upon the seasonal drought outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week, the drought across wide swaths of the nation should improve. Through July, the only region where drought is expected to persist and intensify is big chunks of California and Nevada; smaller sections of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.

In general terms, the three-month temperature outlook from the National Climate Prediction Center calls for above-normal temps across much of the Western U.S.; normal temps across most of the Eastern U.S. The same outlook calls for below-normal precipitation in the Northwest, extending south as far as Nevada (California precipitation is predicted to be normal) and as far as Eastern Colorado. The forecast predicts a few pockets of above-normal precipitation in the Upper Midwest and southern corners of Arizona and New Mexico. Normal precipitation is expected everywhere else.

For the week ending April 11, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service:

Corn – 2% is planted, the same as last year, but 4% behind the five-year average. Due to cool, wet conditions that have pushed the start of spring fieldwork back to a slower-than-normal pace, planting was not yet underway in Iowa, Illinois or Nebraska, the three largest corn-producing states.

Soybeans – 11% is planted, which is 15% behind last year and 18% behind normal. Only Louisiana and Michigan are ahead of last year’s pace.

Winter wheat – 9% advanced to the heading stage, 5% ahead of the same time last year, and 3% ahead of average. Overall, winter wheat conditions declined slightly from a week ago, with 42% of the crop rated in Good to Excellent condition. In Texas, 67% of the crop was rated in Very Poor or Poor condition due to a severe lack of rainfall, freezing temps and insect infestations.

Spring wheat – 2% of the crop is in the ground, 6% behind last year and 9% behind the five-year average. Producers in Washington, Idaho and Montana were kept from fieldwork by snow-covered and abnormally wet fields.

Barley – 3% of seeding is complete; 9% behind last year and 10% behind average. In North Dakota, the largest barley producing state, seeding wasn’t yet underway. In Idaho and Washington, 10% and 13% of the acreage was sown, respectively; however, producers were significantly behind last year and normal.

Sorghum – 23% of the intended acreage is sown, 3% behind last year, 1% behind normal. Producers in Texas had 52% of their acreage planted, 7% behind 2008, but on par with the five-year average. Due to heavy rainfall received earlier, planting in Louisiana, at 14%, was over a week behind normal.

Oats – 37% of planting is complete, 3% ahead of last year but 4% behind the five-year average. Texas producers had finished seeding, but the Dakotas had yet to begin. 29% has emerged, the same as last year, but 1% behind normal.