Ag Weather Forum

Useful Mother's Day Weekend Rain

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Portions of the Northern Plains took in rainfall of up to 1 inch during May 8-9, while a large sector of the Midwest had amounts of 2 inches or heavier. (NOAA graphic)

The adage "rain makes grain" is noticeable in the commodity world at the beginning of the post-Mother's Day week. And, there was a fair amount of rain in some key areas of U.S. corn, soybean and wheat production areas to support the utterance of that time-worn phrase.

May 8 was a big day for rain in both the Northern Plains and in much of the Midwest. In the Northern Plains, a swath running from Mobridge, South Dakota northwest to Glasgow, Montana had rainfall of light to moderate amounts and locally heavier. This swath saw measured precipitation of 0.3 to more than 1 inch. The swath was quite narrow, bounded on its northeast flank by Bismarck, North Dakota and on the southwest by approximately Buffalo, SD. However, this is both a key spring wheat production area and in the grip of Extreme Drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Thus, every drop was welcome.

In the Midwest, the coverage area was wider and amounts were heavier. Aerial coverage extended from Grand Island, Nebraska to Defiance, Ohio west to east, and from approximately Algona, Iowa to West Plains, Missouri north to south. This coverage had a sideways funnel shape with rainfall totals of 0.5 to 2 or 3 inches, qualifying as moderate to heavy. In this large coverage region, south-central Iowa through central Illinois had near-general rainfall measurements of 2 inches or more.

The timeliness of the rain is important. After a chilly start to May, including several nights of frost-level temperatures in part of the Midwest, the pattern has a definitely warmer trend in the forecast through the next two weeks. Warmer conditions and crop root development into better-supplied soils for moisture suggest a favorable combination for progress.

Rainfall is not over with. Weather radars were lit up Monday in the western and southwestern Plains, this time bringing useful moisture to hard red winter wheat and pasture areas. Total amounts of more than 0.5 inch in locations like Brush, Colorado and Dodge City, Kansas go a long way to satisfy the moisture needs of crops in these sectors of the Plains.

This rain event was typical in that not every area saw the benefit of the moisture. The northeastern Plains and northern Midwest hardly saw a drop from the Mother's Day weekend event. Dry conditions in these areas are still concerning when the long view of the rest of this spring through summer are taken into consideration. In addition, the Texas Panhandle through western Texas, and the northwestern U.S. crop areas, had little to no moisture in the past several days. So, while there was some rain benefit over Mother's Day, not everyone shared in the good fortune.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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