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Freeze drops in on western Corn Belt

Jeff Caldwell 04/06/2012 @ 7:51am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The freezing temperatures that everybody was hoping would stay at bay hit parts of the western and central Corn Belt overnight and into Friday morning.

According to Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., temperatures are in the upper 20s and lower 30s from northeastern Iowa north into parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

This should come as no surprise, says Iowa State University ag meteorologist Elwynn Taylor. In the last century, there's only been one year when spring's arrived early but escaped a freeze later in the season.

"Warm in mid-March is not a first in Iowa. Only spring 1946 escaped a hard freeze after March 15," Taylor says.

The good news is despite the sub-freezing dip in some spots, most soil temperatures are still just above the critical 50-degree mark. In states like Iowa, 4-inch-depth soil temperatures range from 54 to 59 degrees, according to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet.

The biggest weather concern moving forward is moisture. Craig Solberg of Freese-Notis says Mother Nature has some catching up to do with moisture in a lot of areas of the Corn Belt.

"Looking at total soil moisture down through roughly the top five feet soil shows that the driest areas continue to be in sections of northeastern Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota, the northwestern third of Iowa, southern Minnesota and parts of western Wisconsin with deficits of 3 to 5 inches fairly common. Most of the rest of the area from Wisconsin and Illinois westward are showing below normal total soil moisture amounts, with lesser deficits," Solberg says. "However, an area from parts of southeastern Iowa into parts of west-central and central Illinois showing deficits now in at least in the to three inch range. With the main spring planting period now getting closer, much of the western half of the Midwest needs significant precipitation to make up these deficits."

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