reports following what has been the driest four-month period since before the 1930s Dust Bowl, hope is dwindling, if not already lost, for many wheat farmers in the nation's largest production region that desperately need rain.

For those who still have hope, rainfall over the next six weeks or so will be extremely critical. A drier-than-normal forecast through May does not bode well.

Any hits to U.S. agriculture amid rising food and gas prices will only add to the strain on the wallets of families and individuals across both the nation and the globe, with the U.S. being the world's largest exporter of wheat and corn.

All eyes on Kansas now

According to Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, the percentage of U.S. wheat considered "poor" or "very poor" increased from 32 to 36 in just the past week due to lack of rain in the southern Plains and Southwest.

Reports have even said that many wheat farmers have considered switching to another crop altogether this year.

"There will not be much of a crop in western Texas and western Oklahoma," Mohler said. "Now the focus is on Kansas and eastern Oklahoma."

As Staff Writer Gina Cherundolo pointed out, "Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas combined produce more than half of the nation's winter wheat crop, with Kansas alone producing about a quarter."

Mohler said Thursday that while there will be storm systems moving through the Plains over the next 10 days, rainfall will only benefit the region temporarily. More rain is needed on a regular basis through May.

With a storm system pushing through the Plains Thursday into Friday of this week, the most substantial rainfall will target areas from eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas into north-central Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa with 0.5 to 1.0 inch possible. Little rain is expected in areas farther south and west.