The drought continues to worsen in the state, with Minnesota for the first time seeing some areas move into the “exceptional drought” range, the worst drought rating.

The Mankato region has fared better because of some timely rains the past month or more, but crops are increasingly stressed.

“We’re better off here than a lot of parts of the state, but we’re very dry here in southern Blue Earth County,” said Garden City farmer Bob Roelofs. “I think we may have an average corn crop here, but no records are going to get broken.”

While the corn got just enough rain at critical times in its development, soybean crops need moisture in August.

“The beans, we need rain soon on those to fill them out. The bean crop is going to be maybe average to poor.”

Roelofs said soybeans will need another inch of rain in about the next week to have a chance of developing properly.

The forecast for the week ahead isn’t promising. While temperatures and humidity have moderated, the chance for rain on any given day in the next 10 days doesn’t top 25% and most of the days there’s far less chance then that predicted.

Roelofs is predicting an early fall for harvest, similar to the drought year of 2012. The only silver lining will be that the corn crop is likely to dry down in the field, meaning less money has to be spent on LP to run corn dryers on grain bins.

“This is the driest I’ve seen since I was a kid in the ‘80s, when we had that bad drought in ‘88. This is worse than 2012.”

‘Exceptional’ drought hits

For the first time this year, parts of Minnesota have reached “exceptional drought,” the highest rating on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. Several counties in northwestern Minnesota, just over 7% of the state, slipped into the exceptional range while large swaths of central, north-central and northeastern Minnesota are in extreme drought.

A new drought monitor map was released Thursday.

Counties in the exceptional drought category are Beltrami, Clearwater, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Norman, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake.

“Extreme” drought conditions increased, with more than 42% of Minnesota in that category. That’s up from around 35% last week.

Blue Earth and Nicollet counties and counties to the east and southeast remain in the “moderate drought” range, where they have been for most of the late spring and summer.

Counties to the south, southwest and northwest of Mankato area remain mostly in a severe or extreme drought.

The Greater Mankato region and to the east has been lucky to receive some timely, if not abundant, rains that have missed much of the state.

Still, conditions continue to grow more serious. Mankato and North Mankato, along with most other cities, have been encouraging water conservation efforts with an even/odd sprinkling schedule for residents. People are also encouraged to make sure dishwashers and clothes washers are only used for full loads.

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