Ag Weather Forum

A Week of Strong Systems

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Snow may fall as far south as Texas with more consistent snows expected in the Northern Plains and northern Midwest through Oct. 29. (DTN graphic)

Harvest progressed nicely yet again over the last week, a product of favorable weather conditions. Corn producers have harvested 60% of the 2020 crop, up 19 percentage points from last week and 17 percentage points above the five-year average. Soybean producers also saw a good jump in progress, up to 75% complete. That is an increase of 14 percentage points for the week and 17 percentage points above the five-year average. That progress is important because the pattern over the next week or so is not favorable for fieldwork.

A storm system has already produced widespread showers from the Northern Plains through the Midwest earlier this week. Rainfall amounts generally in the 0.50-to-1-inch range benefited emerging winter wheat in the Midwest, where dryness and drought have been a concern since the summer. Bands of snow were noted across the Northern Plains and western Midwest, however, putting a hold on fieldwork and harvest. The snow featured a thin band of intense snow of 4 to 9 inches through central Iowa. And yes, that was straight through the derecho-damaged fields in Iowa.

Additional storm systems are indicated to produce moderate to heavy snow across the Northern Plains and northern Midwest through the balance of the week through Oct. 24. These systems are also forecast to bring scattered rain showers to the Central Plains.

The last in this series of storms will move through the northern Rockies during the weekend of Oct. 24-25 and is in line to be a precipitation producer in the Plains and Midwest through Oct. 28. This storm has the potential to generate snowfall as far south as west Texas and widespread heavy snow across the Central Plains and western Midwest. This unsettled pattern will lead to some slowdowns in harvest and the final stages of winter wheat planting.

Regarding winter wheat, most of the crop has been planted at 77% complete, with 51% noted as already emerged. Much of the Plains have been rather dry as drought conditions have expanded across the region in recent weeks, and more moisture is needed to help the developing crop. Kansas wheat ratings totaled 31% good to excellent, three percentage points lower than the 34% total a week ago and a large 24 points below the 55% good to excellent total a year ago.

Precipitation through Oct. 23 shows the highest chance for eastern sectors of the Southern Plains; western areas have very little moisture indicated. The stronger two-part system over the weekend and into next week will produce much more widespread showers, but potential crop stress as well. Snowfall with the late-October storm system could bring enough snow in Nebraska to blanket fields for several days. Another threat will be plunging temperatures. Cold Canadian air will fill in behind the system with temperatures falling below the freezing mark across most of the region early next week. This may cause some damage to early-developing wheat, especially in Kansas where temperatures will be lower with little to no snow cover.

John Baranick can be reached at


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