Authors: Mary Knapp, Kevin Price, Nan An
K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory (EASAL) produces weekly Vegetation Condition Report maps. These maps can be a valuable tool for making crop selection and marketing decisions.
Two short videos of Dr. Kevin Price explaining the development of these maps can be viewed on YouTube at:
The objective of these reports is to provide users with a means of assessing the relative condition of crops and grassland. The maps can be used to assess current plant growth rates, as well as comparisons to the previous year and relative to the 26-year average. The report is used by individual farmers and ranchers, the commodities market, and political leaders for assessing factors such as production potential and drought impact across their state.
NOTE TO READERS: The maps below represent a subset of the maps available from the EASAL group. If you’d like digital copies of the entire map series please contact Nan An at
firstname.lastname@example.org and we can place you on our email list to receive the entire dataset each week as they are produced. The maps are normally first available on Wednesday of each week, unless there is a delay in the posting of the data by EROS Data Center where we obtain the raw data used to make the maps. These maps are provided for free as a service of the Department of Agronomy and K-State Research and Extension.
The maps in this issue of the newsletter show the current state of photosynthetic activity in Kansas, the Corn Belt, and the continental U.S., with comments from Mary Knapp, assistant state climatologist:
Figure 1. The Vegetation Condition Report for Kansas for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows that the highest biomass production continues to be a small pocket of activity along the Arkansas River in southwest Kansas. Irrigated alfalfa is a major product in the region. There is a small area of moderate photosynthetic activity in south central Kansas. Freezing temperatures have yet to reach this far south. Very low NDVI values are visible in Trego, Ellis, Rush, and Ness counties, where moderate drought conditions persist.
Figure 2. Compared to the previous year at this time for Kansas, the current Vegetation Condition Report for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows much of the state with lower photosynthetic activity. Only the Southwest and South Central Divisions have higher photosynthetic activity. These areas continue have beneficial moisture, while the rest of the state has been dry. Moderate drought conditions persist in areas of the state, while abnormally dry conditions cover over half the state.
Figure 3. Compared to the 26-year average at this time for Kansas, this year’s Vegetation Condition Report for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows that most of the state continues to show near-average photosynthetic activity. The Southwest and South Central Divisions have the largest areas of above-average photosynthetic activity as moisture continues to be above average. From central through southeast Kansas, lower NDVI values continue. These areas continue to miss most of the storm systems, and moderate drought and abnormal dry conditions continue to expand.
Figure 4. The Vegetation Condition Report for the Corn Belt for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows that the greatest photosynthetic activity is concentrated in the southern parts of the region, although there is a band of high activity in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Favorable moisture conditions in these areas have resulted in high photosynthetic activity. Low NDVI values are present from North Dakota through Iowa to Illinois and Ohio, as crops mature and freezing temperatures end the growing season.
Figure 5. The comparison to last year in the Corn Belt for the period for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows lower photosynthetic activity centered in the Central Plains, as an extended dry period has increased drought impacts, particularly with winter grains. Drought conditions continue to expand in this area. There is a small area of higher NDVI values in central South Dakota and eastern Ohio where moisture has been more favorable this year than last.
Figure 6. Compared to the 26-year average at this time for the Corn Belt, this year’s Vegetation Condition Report for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows most of the region has average biomass production. Above-average photosynthetic activity can be seen in the Western Plains, where temperatures have continued mild and moisture has been favorable. Parts of Kansas and Missouri stand out with lower NDVI values as warmer-than-average temperatures and low precipitation stress vegetation. Cloudy, wet weather in Northern Michigan has increased disease pressure and slowed harvest.
Figure 7. The Vegetation Condition Report for the U.S for October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows that the highest photosynthetic activity is east of the Mississippi River, where favorable temperatures have extended the growing season. Lower NDVI values are noticeable in the Ohio River Valley and along the Mississippi River, where crops have matured early. Low NDVI values are also notable in the Inner Mountain West, as the colder temperatures begin to be felt. Low NDVI values are also notable along the lower Mississippi River and into east Texas. Heavy rains have caused flooding issues in these areas.
Figure 8. The U.S. comparison to last year at this time for the period October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows that lower NDVI values are most evident from southern Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. Heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Patricia have had a negative impact on vegetation in the region. Across the Central Plains, the more moderate reduction in photosynthetic activity is due to continued drought pressure. In the Northwest, lower NDVI values are visible in eastern Montana, which had more favorable precipitation last year. Much higher NDVI values are visible west of the Cascades and in northern Idaho, thanks to recent rains. Transition of this rainy pattern into a snowy pattern will be essential for significant drought relief.
Figure 9. The U.S. comparison to the 26-year average for the period October 20 – November 2 from K-State’s Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory shows much below-average photosynthetic activity in east Texas and western Washington. Decreases in NDVI readings in both of these areas are due largely to a very wet pattern over the last two weeks. Mild temperatures in the New England region have extended the growing season.
Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library
Kevin Price, Professor Emeritus, Agronomy and Geography
Nan An, former Graduate Research Assistant, Agronomy