Harvest showed some fairly good progress last week. That was in spite of moderate precipitation across the major growing areas, including bouts of moderate to heavy snow.
Corn progressed 12 percentage points to 72% complete while soybeans gained 8 percentage points to 83% complete.
Though the snow, precipitation, and record cold will likely limit harvest progress for this week, the situation is still much better off than last year, which had a similar setup in October with moderate snow and precipitation.
A growing season closer to normal and perhaps a bit ahead of pace allowed more harvest progress prior to the adverse weather conditions as opposed to 2019, when much of the country was behind from the start. Corn harvest progress is 34 percentage points ahead of 2019 while soybeans are 26 percentage points ahead.
A cold upper air trough has been hanging around the Four Corners region early this week and since it has cut off from the upper-level flow, will not advance eastward and out of the country until late this week. This has produced much-needed precipitation in the Central and Southern Plains, helping to ease drought. But the record low temperatures, with temperatures in the 10s Fahrenheit as far south as the Texas Panhandle, are also producing snow and ice for Kansas, Oklahoma and west Texas. The cold is likely causing some winterkill damage to winter wheat in these areas. However, the increase in soil moisture across the region is likely more welcome than the effects of the cold, as drought has significantly reduced quality on winter wheat anyway. Good-to-excellent ratings of 41% are well behind last year at 56% good to excellent.
As the Four Corners system moves eastward, it will pick up Tropical Storm Zeta, which is expected to become a hurricane prior to landfall in eastern Louisiana on Wednesday evening. Heavy tropical rainfall will spread through the Delta, Southeast, and southern Midwest through Thursday. Winter wheat in the Midwest will enjoy further reductions in overall deficits for growth, but heavy rainfall of 2 to 4 inches and locally heavier will cause harvest delay and quality concerns for mature cotton.
While the current weather pattern has put a hold on the harvest season and delayed fieldwork, it will be temporary. As the main weather system moves east this week, cold air trapped in the Plains and Midwest will eventually warm as upper-level ridging generally takes its place.
It may take some time, into early November, for all areas to go back above normal, but it does look increasingly likely that at least the first full week of November will end up above normal across the country.
With a full month left to go in the fall, there is ample time for operations and winter wheat to recover. Producers will likely see the snow melt and be able to return to harvest activities next week. Those watching their winter wheat crops will see the increased soil moisture make up for large deficits during the last two months and continue to build root zones ahead of winter. And for those that will see winterkill, the ability to replant crops in better soil conditions than earlier in October may be good practice.
John Baranick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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