Ag Weather Forum

Moderate Rain Observed and Forecast for Eastern Corn Belt

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Strips of heavy rain fell amongst more light to moderate rain across the Eastern Corn Belt last week. But dry conditions continued to plague the Northwestern Plains and portions of the Upper Midwest. (DTN graphic)

Another week, another slip on the good-to-excellent ratings for corn, soybeans, and especially spring wheat. The ratings fell three points down to 65% for corn, two points down to 60% for soybeans, and 10 points down to 27% for spring wheat. Winter wheat actually gained one percentage point to 49% good to excellent as harvest really kicks into gear.

Since most of the rain that fell in North Dakota was on Sunday, after the reports were already taken in, the 10-point drop in the spring wheat ratings should not be surprising either. Temperatures continued to be well-above normal last week until those rains moved in and soil moisture is almost at its bare minimum. Only 28% of North Dakota's topsoil moisture is rated adequate or better; for South Dakota, it is only 12%. That may be why the spring wheat ratings in South Dakota are currently the worst in the country at just 5% good to excellent.

It might have been a little surprising to see conditions falling in the Eastern Corn Belt, given last week's rainfall was pretty good for many areas. But that rainfall mostly came the last few days of the week and crops might not have been showing the benefits before the surveys were turned in. And the front half of the week was very dry and hot for many of those same areas.

The rains did not come without hazards, however. Strips of moderate to heavy thunderstorms were very strong in several locations.

Here are some of the more notable stretches of severe weather that occurred each day:

-- June 17: Baseball-sized hail in southeast Minnesota.

-- June 18: Baseball-sized hail in southern Iowa and Indiana, wind damage through central Illinois, Indiana, and southwest Ohio. Flash flooding in southern Indiana and southwest Ohio.

-- June 19: Lines of wind damage from eastern Colorado through the Nebraska-Kansas border region.

-- June 20: A bowing segment with confirmed tornadoes from northern Illinois through northern Ohio.

-- June 21: Severe wind gusts in eastern Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Reports of leaning and green snap on corn from wind damage, and defoliation on soybeans from hail were gathered from these events. But sometimes you need to take the good with the bad. The rainfall, with many locations seeing over 2 inches across drought areas in the northern Midwest, will help some of the damaged corn and soybeans to recover.

I was not sure it would be named, but a tropical storm, Claudette, moved from Louisiana through the Carolinas June 18-21. The system produced some good rainfall across the Southeast U.S., putting an end to brief drought conditions in the Carolinas. The system also missed the Delta region, an area that continues to recover from the flooding rains that occurred earlier in June.

And another system is forecast this week and weekend. The setup is different from last weekend's storm system, but the effects will be somewhat similar. Two pieces of energy, one coming from a cutoff low off the California coast, and another moving south through the Canadian Prairies, will move into the Corn Belt at roughly the same time Wednesday night.

This should bring a couple of waves of rainfall through the northern half of the country into the weekend. Rainfall, however, will be more limited to the Central and Southern Plains and eastern half of the Midwest. This leaves the Dakotas and Minnesota, areas we have been talking about drought for the last several months, out of the more consistent action yet again.

Models believe that a piece of the upper-level energy will become cut off from the main flow this coming weekend or early next week, meandering in the Central Plains or western Midwest for several days next week. This will keep shower chances going for Iowa, Missouri, and the eastern Midwest and Delta next week.

Remaining drought areas could be reduced across portions of Iowa, Wisconsin, northern Illinois and Michigan.

While models currently do not have much precipitation going next week farther northwest, where the conditions have been the worst for row crops, forecast uncertainty abounds.

A ridge in the west, which has kept the Pacific Northwest hot and dry during the last week, will try to spread over the top of the cutoff upper-level low. If it succeeds, the low will have a chance to meander farther northwest. This would at least give producers in the Dakotas and Minnesota a chance, albeit small, to see some more rainfall. That chance may be an outside one, but the hope is there.

John Baranick can be reached at john.baranick@dtn.com

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