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Agricultural drought expanding in Virginia

Sources for this report include VA Farm Bureau and the National Drought Mitigation Center

April 20 - Farmers in Virginia are seeing an expanding area of agricultural drought. That's according to the latest drought map published by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Approximately 4.77 million people live in the "moderate drought" area.

On April 11, 20% of Virginia was described as in "moderate drought." By April 18, the area had increased to 32% of the state.

Despite historically dry conditions, Virginia corn growers have been busy preparing their fields for planting. As of April 16, 25% of the state’s corn had been planted, according to the USDA report.

Keith Dunn, a Sussex County farmer, said while conditions were “a little drier than normal for this time of year,” corn planting has been moving along in his area. A majority of the county was recently classified as “abnormally dry” by U.S. Drought Monitor.

However, Dunn said he isn’t experiencing extremely dry conditions on his farm. “We’re back right now to adequate to a little above-adequate soil moisture, so there’s no problems with any planting going on around here right now,” he said.

The southeast region of the U.S. is generally considered “water rich,” but droughts are not uncommon. Drought conditions can develop rapidly when a lack of rain and high temperatures combine to quickly increase the loss of water from the landscape through evapotranspiration, according to NOAA’s Drought Information System.

While soil nutrients are not lost during a drought, heavy rainfall after a dry period can wash away heavy clay that carries valuable nutrients and topsoil, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Extension advises homeowners to incorporate organic matter into clays and other soil types to improve soil structure, mulch to conserve moisture and control soil splashing, or use trickle irrigation near the base of plants to reduce runoff.

For more tips on nutrient management at home, visit

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