Ag Weather Forum

Damaging Cold This Week

Below-freezing temperatures in the Plains and Midwest April 13-14 lead to concern over possible winter wheat damage. (DTN graphic)

Following a large storm system that moved through the continental United States during the Easter weekend, substantially colder air poured into the areas east of the Rockies.

Temperatures some 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal moved into the Plains states Sunday and Monday. Low temperatures in the 10s F were felt across most of the Northern Plains and even some single-digit above-zero readings were recorded in western Nebraska and South Dakota.

The extreme cold also led to readings below freezing for much of the rest of the Plains states, including most of Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles.

Developing winter wheat largely in the jointing stage in Kansas and Oklahoma may have suffered significant damage as lows continue to fall below freezing in the same areas through the morning of April 18. The long stretch of well-below normal temperatures follows an early start to the spring season where above normal temperatures have dominated the landscape since December.

In other areas of the country, it is still wet. The Easter storm filled soils that had been drying out last week. Some fieldwork and planting operations were ongoing in the Midwest and Delta regions, but the storm put a stop to it. The low temperatures that have followed the storm for this week are likely causing producers to be gun-shy about getting into the field this week.

However, one benefit with the cold air mass is the shift in the storm track further to the south where soils have been much drier. Storms through April 18 will travel across the Gulf Coast, with major benefits to Florida, a state that is sitting at less than 2 inches of rainfall during the last two months. Even with that southern storm track, some overrunning precipitation will be felt in the southern Midwest as a string of steady showers produces near 1 inch of rainfall (mixed with snow at times) April 16-18. Outside of that though, the Delta will be quiet and the saturated soils will have a good opportunity to drain.

Some producers here through the Southeast could find good opportunities to get into the fields. That is, of course, until the storm track lifts a bit further north this weekend, spreading moderate showers and widespread rainfall amounts of a half-to-1 inch across the region April 18-19. With thunderstorms in the forecast, locally heavier amounts and some severe weather will also be possible.

In South America, the rainy season is ending. Northern Brazil still has tropical-source rain, but the pattern is much more variable elsewhere. Southern Brazil is notably dry, with precipitation from 60 to 80% below normal. Crop loss to corn and soybeans is noted. Central Brazil has better soil moisture but will have only scattered rain showers during the next 10 days. In Argentina, drier conditions will favor corn and soybean harvest progress. Double-crop soybeans need more rain but have only light and scattered activity in store through the next week.

John Baranick can be reached at



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