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Good harvest weather on tap, forecasters say

Agriculture.com Staff 09/25/2008 @ 8:57am

Looking ahead to the weather through this weekend, it's looking like a good time to get harvest underway in many parts of corn and soybean country...that is, if Mother Nature can hold off on the frost.

Reports on Thursday indicate a dry, warm forecast through this weekend, though there are some dangers of a frost in spots. All in all, warmer-than-normal temperatures and generally dry conditions will be good -- where the crops are ready -- to get harvest rolling.

"The 2008 harvest is starting to pick up a little momentum right now in the Corn Belt, and there is not much in the weather forecast to suggest that this will subside as we head into next week," says Charlie Notis of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa. "I certainly do not envision things going especially wet for large parts of the Corn Belt during that time frame. I do not see the very early stages of the 2008 harvest being delayed very much by rainfall. Abnormal warmth still is the main feature of temperatures in the region for especially today through Saturday, with lots of highs in the 80s expected during that period."

Alongside this outlook does loom the prospect of a frost soon. Though farmers have dodged the early frost bullet thus far, soybeans in the northern part of the Corn Belt may be susceptible to frost damage next week.

"In this region, it is normal to have the first frost around this time of year," AccuWeather.com agriculture Expert Senior Meteorologist Dale Mohler says in a report Wednesday. "What's unusual is that crops were planted later this season, which makes them more vulnerable than they would normally be to a frost that occurs now."

Areas in southern Minnesota, northern Iowa and Wisconsin may see temperatures drop to the lower 30s early next week. Wind and cloud cover over the Ohio Valley will protect areas from southern Iowa to Chicago.

What could this mean to the soybean crop? Overall, about 10% of the crop is at risk, Mohler says. However, he adds, "even in the worst case scenario, only a small percentage of that portion may be damaged from the frost."

Beyond this frost, the weather should warm up in the later half of next week, staying mild through the middle of October. "This frost will be the one event that will adversely affect the crop in the next few weeks, but it looks like it will be pretty minor" says Mohler.

Notis agrees. But, once the frost-prone patch through next week is past, chances are slim the danger will return too soon.

"I think that the potential is there for low temperatures in some spots to reach the 30s, with Wednesday through Friday mornings being the time frame to expect that for various parts of the region. At this point though I do not see the truly clear/calm nighttime weather conditions that are needed to produce any sort of a hard freeze in a notable part of the region," Notis says. "Beyond next Friday should be warming, so I still think that if we can make it through next week we will see the fall of 2008 feature an abnormally late first freeze for the bulk of the Corn Belt."

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