Ag Weather Forum

Rain to Disrupt Midwest Harvest

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Threatening storm clouds loom over a ripening soybean field near Attica, Indiana. (DTN photo by Pam Smith)

So much for early harvest.

Corn and soybean progress shows maturity and ripening phases running at least a week ahead of average. However, heavy rain and flooding hit the western Midwest during the late August-early September period. In the western Midwest, rainfall of two to ten inches fell between the end of August and Thursday, Sept. 5. Now, drenching downpours are targeting the eastern Midwest and the Delta for the Sept. 8 weekend.

As a result, the harvest scenario for corn and soybeans is looking at a more-typical timeframe. The intensity and amount of precipitation means both crops and fields will need several days of dry weather before harvest can get back into gear. Crop moisture levels are important, along with the potential for soil compaction when heavy machinery moves over ground that is not completely dry.

A similar set of conditions occurred just last year, in the 2017 harvest season, in the eastern Midwest. At that time, the Ohio State Extension Service posted the following tips to minimize damage during a wet harvest season.

1. Use a controlled traffic strategy to minimize the amount of field traversed by combines and grain carts. Most damage occurs with the first pass of the machine.

2. Make sure tire pressure is properly adjusted for the axle load. Larger tires with lower air pressure allow for better flotation and reduce pressure on the soil surface. Larger tires that are properly inflated increases the "footprint" on the soil. Note: pressures for road travel should not be the same as field travel.

3. Minimize filling grain carts to max capacity, thereby reducing overall axle load.

4. High inflation pressures lead to more serious compaction events.

5. Hold off on soil tillage operations until soil conditions are drier than field capacity. Tilling too wet can cause issues as well and not accomplish the intended results of tillage.

6. Collect machine data to evaluate trafficked areas after harvest. These data can identify where multiple passes of equipment occurred and where areas need to be deep ripped.

7. Where funds allow, consider making the switch to tracks from wheeled tractors and carts. Tracked machinery and equipment more evenly distribute weight and cause less damage than their wheeled counterparts.

For those wishing for drier weather -- and we are myriad -- DTN forecasts for the Midwest over the next week point to little to no follow-up rainfall.

"High pressure is going to build over more of Midwest, which will be drier," said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino. "In addition, tropical weather activity in the Atlantic Ocean will tend to steal the moisture flow."

Such a development would be welcome as the 2018 harvest takes on more of an average timeframe.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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