More hot and dry late-summer weather left the Corn Belt short on rain and deep in drought. The latest Drought Monitor report from the National Drought Mitigation Center showed drought intensifying in the Corn Belt and persisting in the West.  

“After such an ideal start to the growing season, the past two months have been much drier than usual, with temperatures slowly increasing,” said David Miskus, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, in narrative accompanying the map.

In the heart of America’s breadbasket, the drought leaves crops parched and farmers praying for rain.

Last month, Iowa saw its seventh-driest August in 141 years of reporting, following its ninth-driest July.  Nearly one-third of the state is in severe or worse drought, up from 22 percent reported last week. Yet, this pales in comparison to other states deep in drought, including Nebraska (66 percent in severe to exceptional drought), Kansas (39 percent in severe to exceptional drought) and Texas (64 percent in severe to exceptional drought).  

More than half of the nation’s corn and 42 percent of soybeans are now growing in drought conditions.

“Given that U.S. producers planted an estimated 97.4 million acres of corn and 77.2 million acres of soybeans in 2013, current drought figures suggest that more than 50 million acres (nearly 80,000 square miles) of corn and some 32 million acres (more than 50,000 square miles) of soybeans are presently being affected by drought,” said Brad Rippey, meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist. “According to USDA, nearly one-sixth of the U.S. corn (16 percent) and soybeans (15 percent) were rated in very poor to poor condition on September 1. A year ago, near the height of the Drought of 2012, very poor to poor ratings stood at 52 percent of the corn and 37 percent of the soybeans.”

While the Corn Belt dried out, part of the Southwest and West benefitted from the monsoon moisture. Ninety-seven percent of California remains in moderate or worse drought, marking the first time this number has fallen below 98 percent in nearly six months.

Click here to see the full map.