(Reuters) - Drought conditions are retreating slowly in the Plains, according to a report issued Thursday by a consortium of state and federal climatologists.
The "Drought Monitor" report, which tracks land area stricken by drought on a weekly basis, said the Plains, which has been the hardest hit by the ongoing drought, was seeing improvement thanks to recent rains and snow.
Drought Monitor has reported a slow retreat of drought conditions since February due to snowfall and rain showers.
The improving conditions are closely monitored by agricultural experts as winter wheat crops are emerging after being planted last fall, and farmers are preparing to plant spring crops like corn and soybeans.
The report issued Thursday said:
* Nebraska, the most drought-stricken state in the nation, saw good improvement in the last week. While severe drought still grips 100 percent of the state, levels of "extreme" and "exceptional" drought declined slightly. Exceptional drought, the worst level, fell to 75.72 percent of the state, down from 76.16 percent, the report said.
* Top wheat-grower Kansas saw only a small decline in drought. Extreme and exceptional drought - the two worst levels - were unchanged, but severe drought, the third-worst level, fell to 94.50 percent of the state from 95.10 percent.
* Oklahoma, another key wheat producing state, also saw drought levels decline over the last week, according to the Drought Monitor, though still more than 52 percent of Oklahoma was rated in extreme drought. That was down from 53.07 percent in extreme drought the prior week. Exceptional drought levels were unchanged at 9.90 percent of the state.
* Drought grew worse in Texas over the last week, the report said. All three levels of severe, extreme and exceptional drought expanded, with nearly 44 percent of the state now in at least severe drought, the report said.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by Andrew Hay)