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Corn Belt 'roller coaster' weather to cool off after sweltering weekend

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2007 @ 1:00pm

You can't do much outside without breaking a sweat these days, as temperatures soar to 90 and above throughout the Plains and Corn Belt.

But, relief is likely on the way, with more seasonable temperatures expected from early next week on, forecasters say. Depending on what sort of hand Mother Nature has dealt your corn crop so far this growing season, this snap in the sweltering heat may be the difference between a crop and no crop.

"The corn crop will be stressed and in need of quick relief such as the low 80s, widespread prolonged rainfall and light winds after the next few days," QT Weather meteorologist Allen Motew said Friday. "That is exactly what is on the way starting Monday. But, the question remains: How widespread will this relief be and for how long?"

This relief, Motew says, will come in the form of a series of cold fronts that will move into the parched Corn Belt, bringing temperatures up to eight degrees cooler than normal through next week, with temperatures dipping as low as the 40s in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin late next week. Moisture, however, will likely be spotty, though some of the driest areas have fair chances of getting wet, Motew says.

"Rain will begin in the northern Corn Belt Sunday evening. The driest areas of southern Minnesota are not going to get the drink they need with this first round," Motew says. "But, then the second round on this 'roller coaster ride' begins Tuesday."

From Tuesday on, while the dry parts of southern Minnesota -- where soil moisture levels are dipping to 20% to 30% of normal -- may miss significant precipitation chances, the central and eastern Corn Belt stands to receive much-needed rains.

"The crop in the driest soil regions of Indiana are going to benefit while the crop in southern Minnesota will likely not," Motew says of the next two weeks' moisture chances.

Much of Indiana, where corn crop conditions range "pretty dramatically," will welcome cooler temperatures and potential moisture, says Purdue University Extension corn specialist Bob Nielsen. Soil moisture levels are below-average around the state, he says, but depending on conditions during planting, the crop has made good use of what moisture is in the ground.

"The hottest areas are up the eastern side of the state and on into Ohio. They've been dry the whole season, so they're having trouble with variable or no emergence. We've caught rains in the last week or two, which has helped, but the driest areas haven't received much," Nielsen says.

Looking ahead, even though the Corn Belt should have some respite from sweltering heat like this weekend, it likely won't last too long, according to Freese-Notis Weather, Inc.

"As always during the summer, rainfall is the key though to determining where corn and soybean prices are headed, and we certainly do have rainfall chances in the forecast for next week. Your areas that need that rain the most are clearly Michigan, Ohio, western Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, northwestern Missouri and South Dakota," according to Friday's Freese-Notis commentary. "All of those areas have chances, but again, it is summer, so one always has to worry about coverage of whatever rain falls."

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