Ag Weather Forum

Western Corn Belt Rain Ahead

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Heavy rain possible over the Western Corn Belt in the next week will delay harvest -- but is also lined up over some recently quite dry areas. (NOAA graphic by Scott Kemper)

The first week of October may be a wet period over much of the Western Corn Belt. The U.S. forecast model during both Thursday, Sept. 28, and Friday, Sept. 29, has been featuring a swath of rain totaling from 1 to 3 inches from north-central Kansas northeast to central Minnesota. The area with heavy rain includes much of eastern Nebraska, northwestern Iowa, eastern South Dakota, and southwestern Minnesota.

There are several angles to this forecast that are worth noting. First, as my colleague Mike Palmerino pointed out in discussion Friday, there is not a universal forecast model call for this heavy rain. The European forecast model has probably about half the rain forecast that the U.S. model does. The Euro model is somewhat of an outlier, however, as the Canadian forecast model presentation agrees with the U.S. model. Nonetheless, there is some question about whether this rain prospect will actually verify.

If the rain does occur, there is no doubt that corn and soybean harvest will be delayed. After all, parts of the Western Corn Belt are just now getting dried out after recent heavy rainfall. And, the finale to the 2017 crop season in some areas at least is already a week later than average. So, another round of rain would only extend that lag by at least a few days.

It is worth pointing out, though, that there is a noteworthy matching up of locales with heaviest rain totals in the forecast with areas where driest conditions have been over the past 30 days. Much of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, for example, have taken in only about 25% of normal precipitation during the past 30 days. This kind of dryness means that rainfall is likely to generally move right into the soil profile, and keep muddy conditions reasonably short in the time span. There's no frost in the ground, so that would tend to enhance the prospect for the rain to soak in.

Another feature to note is that, as we have mentioned for a couple weeks, the Pacific Ocean temperatures are trending cooler, with a La Nina watch now in effect according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center. Everyone who has kept track of such things knows that La Nina conditions in the Pacific relate to drier prospects for the central U.S. -- so, although La Nina is not expected to last for more than a few months, the mere fact of its development is something that gets the industry's attention. In that regard, any additional soil moisture ahead of the 2018 planting season would be very welcome.

A final point on the forecast is that the pattern looks drier from Oct. 8 on. Thus, harvest disruption does not look like an extensive affair.


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