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A quick crop weather world tour

Jeff Caldwell 02/22/2013 @ 11:11am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The passage of a "Bigfoot of a storm" through the nation's center brought badly needed precipitation in the form of up to 18 inches of snow to points from the southern Plains to the eastern Corn Belt.

"The winter storm that brought over 1 foot of snow and badly needed moisture to the Central Plains has an impressive footprint, with snow from Phoenix to Petosky over the last 48 hours. The storm is still producing, and several inches of snow will accumulate from the Michigan Upper Peninsula southeast into Ohio," according to a report from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) on Friday. "The highest 24-hour totals reported by CoCoRaHS were from observers in central Kansas. However, the area of heaviest snow was rather broad and extended into southern Nebraska and western Missouri with amounts of 10 inches and more common. South of the main snow areas, freezing rain glazed streets, trees, and power lines from Arkansas northeast through central Indiana."

The wheat farmers in the path of the heaviest snowfall will likely see major benefits from the storm as temperatures start to warm. Until then, the snowcover will be invaluable in protecting a winter wheat crop that, in some areas, is barely holding on to life.

"A major winter storm developed across the Plains and western Midwest over the past couple of days, and this has helped to significantly increase snowcover across nearly all of the central Plains and western Midwest," says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney. "This snow will help to improve moisture for wheat once it melts."

What's already fallen in the region will be augmented too by another winter system to move through the Plains late this weekend, Keeney adds.

'Dancing in the rain' in Argentina

Mauricio Torres was doing just that on Thursday after much-needed rains fell.

But the showers rode a two-pronged setback: First, it was far from enough to boost moisture levels in parched soils. And, at least in the area of Chacabuco (just west of Buenos Aires) where Torres works as a crop adviser for BLD, Inc., it wasn't just rain.

"In a week we will see the response of crops to the hail," he says of the hail that was about 2 inches in diameter that accompanied the Thursday rains.

It's still dry in Argentina, though there may be some improvement in the next week for those late-planted soybeans with development yet to go, Keeney says. Subsequent crop benefits will likely be limited, however.

"Earlier rains helped to improve moisture a bit in northern Cordoba, Santa Fe, and Entre Rios, and additional improvements are expected there later this weekend. These rains will continue to improve conditions for soybean late growth," Keeney says. "However, significant dryness will likely continue in north-central and northwestern Buenos Aires into southern Cordoba as rains there remain light. Rains in La Pampa in the 6- to 10-day period will help to improve moisture there, but moisture will begin to decline again in north-central areas."

There is a slight silver lining to the drought cloud in Argentina, though; corn farmers are nearing harvest and though the dryness has been the culprit of yield potential during the growing season, it's going to become farmers' ally as the combines start to roll.

"Corn harvesting will begin soon and will benefit from drier conditions," Keeney says.

FSU winterkill dangers recede

Dryness has also been a problem in the last year in the wheat belt of former Soviet Union (FSU) nations in eastern Europe. Fortunately, though it's on the lighter side in parts of Ukraine for example, there is fairly consistent snowcover throughout the region. And that's helping bat down potential crop damage from winterkill, Keeney says.

"Snowcover remains a bit thin across southeastern Ukraine and North Caucasus, and no notable snowfall is expected there over the next 10 days. However, winterkill threats will remain low," he says. "Snow cover is also a bit light across far western Ukraine, but snowcover there should improve a bit this weekend."

And, while additional snowfall will likely be limited in much of Belarus, Ukraine, and the Volga Valley in the next week to 10 days, Keeney says a warmup will start the snow melting, allowing the soils to absorb the vital moisture.


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