Drought conditions moderate slightly in U.S. Plains -report

Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:00pm EDT

March 21 (Reuters) - Light rains have helped reduce severe
and extreme drought conditions in portions of the U.S. Plains,
but abnormally dry weather lingered in the area that produces
most of the country's wheat, according to a weekly report issued
on Thursday.
    There was little rain in Texas, resulting in an expansion of
the state's "exceptional" dryness, the worst conditions as
classified by the Drought Monitor report issued by a consortium
of state and federal climatologists.
    But in the top wheat growing state of Kansas, "extreme"
conditions moderated slightly even though the entire state as
well as the entire High Plains region, outside of part of North
Dakota, remains in a drought, the report stated.    
     
  
    The lack of rainfall and short top soil moisture levels
could stress the wheat crop and reduce yields at harvest. The
crop is exiting its winter dormancy and the recent below-normal
temperatures may also harm the young plants.
    "In the far western Panhandle region, Cimarron County
(Oklahoma) in particular is experiencing widespread winter wheat
and native grass loss," the climatologists wrote.
    In a separate report on Thursday, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration forecast an easing of drought
conditions as well as above-normal temps this spring in both the
Plains and Midwest regions.
           

 (Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; editing by Jim
Marshall)