Ag Weather Forum

Drier Pattern Returning to Corn Belt

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Over the last seven days, a frontal boundary stalled from west Texas to Lower Michigan, creating a wide swath of heavy precipitation. More scattered showers developed behind that zone with lower amounts. Precipitation amounts are from June 22-28. (DTN graphic)

Heavy, flooding rains were noted from West Texas through Lower Michigan over the past week. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 5 inches have been common along a wide zone as a frontal boundary has stalled in the area since June 26. Embedded in that zone have been much higher amounts with double-digit rainfall totals for portions of Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, northern Missouri and central Illinois. The rains have put some delays into the winter wheat harvest for sure.

There have also been good rainfall amounts outside of this zone in the Midwest and Central Plains. Another strip of moderate to heavy rain fell from eastern Nebraska through central Wisconsin, including drought areas in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. But rain was not as consistently heavy with rainfall amounts more in the 1- to 3-inch range with isolated heavier amounts.

On the whole, rainfall has been disappointing yet again across the Northern Plains. Scattered showers certainly did fall across the region, but amounts were generally 0.50 inch or less with some isolated heavier amounts.

All of that together has led to some differing crop conditions. We saw overall good-to-excellent ratings for corn slip 1 percentage point from 65% to 64% and remain stable for soybeans at 60%. This was largely due to offsetting conditions with improving numbers where rain was the best in the Eastern Corn Belt, and declining numbers where the rains were disappointing. That goes for most of the Western Corn Belt, but also Ohio where the front was too far away to produce much shower activity over the last week.

And the disappointing showers continue to take a hit on spring wheat. Some shower activity was able to stabilize wheat ratings in the Dakotas; but to be honest, they cannot go much lower. The real hit came in the neighboring states, where good-to-excellent ratings dropped from 43% to 21% in Montana and from 48% to 29% in Minnesota. That supported the overall drop in spring wheat good-to-excellent ratings from 27% down to 20%, still the lowest since 1988.

The forecast calls for much of the same dryness across the U.S. Northwest. The front that has been stalled will finally get a push southward late this week and weekend, moving down into the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend. This will set up a drier pattern for the rest of the week and into the next after the front moves through. Its continued presence across the south will mean more rainfall for west Texas, and the small areas of drought here are largely withering away. But for most of the primary crop areas, drier conditions are in store.

This bodes well for areas that received good rainfall. The increasing sunshine and heat will accelerate crop growth as more of the nation's corn goes into silking on corn and blooming on soybeans. But those areas that are still wanting, mainly in the Northern Plains, will continue to see conditions decline.

There is some hope, however small it may be. A weak frontal boundary is forecast to move from the Canadian Prairies into the northern tier of the country early next week. With the heat ahead of it, there could be some isolated showers across the Dakotas and Minnesota. But this is not expected to be a widespread rainfall event. The theme of the year so far is isolated showers, locally heavy.

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

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