New Storms to Threaten Northern Harvest

Rainy Conditions to Again Stymie Northern Harvest

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Soybean fields that were buried in the snow during Oct. 10-12 in the Northern Plains may get stranded again by rain during the next seven days. (Photo by Laura Edwards)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Following several days of mostly dry conditions across most U.S. crop areas, a new round of stormy weather is indicated in the forecast for the next-to-last week of October. Rain and wind are featured; the heaviest rain amounts are pointed toward the Northern Plains and northern Midwest, where heavy snow and rain occurred during the Oct. 10-12 period.

This new round of storms adds to crop calamities that have been noted and are still being analyzed. "Soybean harvest is more than 40 to 50 percentage points behind average in the northern belt (North and South Dakota, Minnesota)," said USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. "And the big story is excess moisture." During a NOAA central U.S. forecast webinar, Rippey noted that North Dakota topsoil moisture is a nation-high 62% surplus as of mid-October.

Oncoming precipitation keeps the pressure on unharvested crops, especially in fields that incurred hard freeze damage (28 degrees Fahrenheit or below). "I think the lingering moisture and all that follows that -- stalk molds, ear molds in corn, sprouting in the ear or pod, weak stalks and lodging ... is the concern," said South Dakota State Climatologist Laura Edwards. "All season ... we have been hearing of so many issues."

Forecasts on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 showed only a confined bull's-eye of heavy precipitation in eastern North Dakota. But, the Oct. 18 forecast model presentations included Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa in line for heavy precipitation of greater than 1 inch.

"That heavier precipitation is fanning out and expanding over the northern and into the Eastern Corn Belt," said DTN Senior Ag meteorologist Mike Palmerino. Storm elements could also include severe weather, with tornado development possible. "An active cold front in the eastern Midwest could lead to conditions for tornadoes," Palmerino said.

A drier pattern is forecast over the Central and Southern Plains and the western Midwest, but strong winds over these areas offer a mixed effect. "The winds will help dry the ground out for harvest, but where it's already drier in the Southern Plains wheat areas, you could see the moisture get drawn down even more pretty quickly," Palmerino said.

Meanwhile, the specter of saturated soils in the Northern Plains leads to thoughts of an extended harvest season, even all the way into 2020. "When you're waiting for the ground to freeze until harvesting, you may be waiting until the next year to be able to harvest," said USDA Midwest Climate Hub Director Dennis Todey. "It could be a similar situation to the harvest in 2009."

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Bryce Anderson

Bryce Anderson
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