Ag Weather Forum

Northwestern Crop Stress Continues Despite Showers

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Isolated showers will occur in the Northern Plains while more scattered showers continue along and east of the Mississippi River during the next week. (DTN graphic)

After last week's high crop ratings for corn and a week of dryness and heat, it was no surprise that good-to-excellent ratings declined this week. Overall, the good-to-excellent ratings dropped 4 percentage points with the largest drop seen in South Dakota going from 67% last week to 46% this week. Early ratings can be a little misleading as it is sometimes difficult to get a good idea of the conditions of your crops as they are just emerging.

The heat and dryness likely pushed farmers to think that their good-looking crop was more fair than good as ratings for poor-to-very poor ratings did not change much, increasing just 1 percentage point from last week.

The heat was something to behold last week. Temperatures on Friday and Saturday reached into triple-digit territory across a good portion of the Dakotas and Minnesota and was in the 90s from Nebraska to Michigan and points northward. This largely coincides with areas of ongoing drought which will likely end up worse in the update to the drought monitor on June 10.

Very few showers has occurred within the heat. The extreme temperatures have led to an unstable atmosphere, one that is likely to produce showers and thunderstorms with a little help from a front or upper-level disturbance. However, even with a front moving into the area on June 6, only a few isolated showers and thunderstorms have been able to develop. Amounts have been less than 0.25 inches for most of the areas that even saw showers, but there was one notable exception.

Strong thunderstorms developed in southeast North Dakota on the evening of June 7. After producing some severe hail and wind gusts, the small cluster decided to continue building through the night and into the morning of June 8. Rainfall estimates over 2 inches were found across a moderately-sized area south of Interstate 94 south and east of Jamestown and headed west down the interstate toward Bismarck on the morning of June 8. However, that has been about it for any meaningful rainfall since the heat has arrived.

The instability will produce more scattered strong to severe thunderstorms over eastern Montana and the western Dakotas later June 8. Another, more organized system is expected to cross the Northern Plains June 10 into June 11 with a better chance at more widespread rainfall amounts in the 0.50-to-1-inch range and locally heavier. Rainfall amounts may help put small dents in the regional drought, but it is so deep that it will take more than an event or two to make any serious changes.

Farther east, an upper-level low has moved from Texas into the Midwest this week. This feature is a slow-mover and will continue to pull moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northward into the Midwest through Friday before moving eastward. Models continue to paint 1-to-2 inches of rainfall from the Midwest down to the Gulf of Mexico with isolated heavier amounts, especially in the Tennessee River Valley.

Crop conditions have largely been better in this area. Better rainfall and less extreme temperatures have been the norm for the growing season. That is, if you take out the frosts that occurred over portions of the region in May and some ongoing drought across the north. Still, the region will be able to utilize the rainfall effectively.

Iowa and Minnesota are taking on the pattern of the Northern Plains. Drought has been mostly increasing during the last month, though it is not as extreme as it is in the Dakotas. Heat moved into these states last week and the showers over the Midwest remain largely off to the east. Very little rainfall is expected here during the next week, but there is some potential that the organized shower activity from the Northern Plains will move through on June 11. But outside of that chance, very little rainfall is expected during the next week and it is likely that we will see crop conditions decline on next Monday's report.

Recent rainfall and nearly drought-free conditions in the Plains has helped Nebraska take ownership of the best corn good-to-excellent ratings for the second straight week, but dryness has taken over this week and only isolated showers are expected for the next week. If the state is missed by the potential thunderstorm complex moving through June 10-11, we could see ratings slip next week and another state take the top spot. Perhaps one in the eastern Midwest could do it. The dryness will help wheat advance to maturity and produce largely good harvest conditions, however.

After the system moves through the Plains late this week, and through the Midwest early next week, drier weather is anticipated to grip the nation with more isolated showers. The overall dryness continues to create concern for areas already in drought and cause some concern for areas that are on the verge of it occurring.

John Baranick can be reached at


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