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Crops 'crashing left and right'

Jeff Caldwell 08/28/2013 @ 7:52am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

A high-pressure ridge has settled in along the southern edge of the Corn Belt, and that's responsible for the heat and dryness that some farmers say have inflicted more damage to the growing corn and soybean crops in the last few days than in the entire preceding growing season.

Triple-digit temperatures have been common around the region in the last few days, and the scorching temps aren't going away too quickly; the epicenter of the "ridge of higher pressure" behind the heat is centered directly over Missouri, preventing the heat from dissipating, according to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM).

"This hot weather is thanks to a strong ridge of higher pressure centered just to our south," according to IEM on Wednesday. "Ridge is a meteorological term that describes an area of higher pressure that tends to create sinking motions in the atmosphere and steer storm systems around it."

Though outlooks earlier this week projected a weak cold front might help break up the ridge and allow showers to move through the region, some farmers say it may be too little too late after the last few days, when the crops have literally cooked in the 100-degree temperatures.

"Fields are crashing left and right. Some have spots dead clear to the top already," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk adviser Mizzou_Tiger, who farms in south-central Iowa. "Might be one of the biggest seven-day losses in yield in history . . . losing 1% every day at this point."

Adds Marketing Talk veteran contributor DW11, who says he planted his corn two to three weeks later than normal in a "cold, wet spring" adds: "I can attest to the hammering our corn has taken in South Dakota in the last two days. We are plumb out of water and an above-average crop is going below average quickly with a poor fill.

"Absolutely, we are seeing green healthy corn turn brown in a matter of days. We had a good corn crop coming in South Dakota, but this extreme heat and continued dryness is going to take us down 10% to 20% in my estimation," DW11 adds. "The beans I'm afraid will take it even worse."

Looking ahead, there aren't many chances for relief in most of the region over the next few days. Scattered showers could fall in the northern reaches of the Corn Belt, opening the possibility of more spotty rain farther south in the 11- to 15-day outlook, according to Commodity Weather Group (CWG).

"The driest areas remain in parts of the northern Dakotas, central Minnesota, central Wisconsin, central Illinois, southwestern Indiana, central and southeastern Iowa, and northern Missouri over the past 30 days, and opportunities for relief this week appear limited to North Dakota, central Minnesota, and Wisconsin (slightly wetter Thursday/Friday). Showers are still far from widespread in early September, but a few showers were added to northern parts of Iowa/Illinois/Indiana on Sunday/Monday. Showers could then scatter from South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota into western Iowa at the middle of next week, with the best rain chances then in the northwestern Midwest into the 11- to 15-day," according to CWG on Wednesday. "This could all combine to provide some minor relief to late soybean growth in perhaps one half of the driest area by the end of the forecast period."

These sporadic showers will likely usher in cooler air next week, though, adds MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney. So, will it make much of a difference?

"Significant reductions in dryness and crop stress are unlikely. Very warm temperatures currently are adding to the crop stress, but much cooler conditions next week will ease any heat stress," he says. "A widespread drier pattern in the Midwest again next week will allow any improvements from this week to quickly disappear."

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