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Storms bash central U.S., stall corn planting

Jeff Caldwell 05/20/2013 @ 9:40am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The monstrous line of storms that stretched from Texas to Minnesota Sunday night saw tornadoes blow up and heavy rains soak soils, beginning the latest round of planting delays where there are still quite a few acres of corn and soybeans left to plant.

A system that took showers to parts of Nebraska and Iowa on Saturday got momentum from warm temperatures in the area on Sunday, causing it to sprout tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa before it lost strength as temperatures cooled and it moved east. Rainfall amounts of 2 inches were common in areas in the system's path (some spots saw almost 5 inches), according to Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa. Sunday's rain and severe storms may be just the start of a rough week, weatherwise.

"Much more widespread rain is forecast for today through Wednesday throughout the central Corn Belt states, the first rain in more than a week for some areas. Today, very warm and humid conditions along with the slow approach of a storm system still centered over eastern Nebraska could set the stage for more widespread rain as well as strong to severe thunderstorms," Freese says. "These strong thunderstorms can produce large hail and damaging winds. The potential for heavy rainfall and localized flooding does exist in the central Corn Belt states. Cooler weather is forecast for the Corn Belt states during the middle to latter part of this week with more showers forecast this next weekend. Much warmer temperatures are forecast for next week."

Generally, there's a 70% chance that as much as 3 inches of rain could fall around the Midwest over the next five days, according to Monday's Ag QUICKsheet from Commodity Weather Group (CWG). The northern Plains will likely see up to 2.5 inches of rain in that same time period.

These latest rains are causing the departure from normal precipitation levels to grow, especially in the western and central Corn Belt, where some crop reporting districts are showing a surplus of more than 5 inches of rain for the last six weeks, according to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM) on Monday.

"East-central Iowa up into southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin have seen the largest departures from long-term average. Further rounds of heavy rain and severe weather are expected today and on Tuesday," according to IEM on Monday.


"A tornado was spotted 3 miles south of my farm. A few barns blown down, lots of tree damage, nickel-size hail, leaves plastered on the south side of buildings, dead song birds laying around . . . far as I know, no one in Iowa was killed," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk veteran contributor Wind. "Had a wind gust of 71 mph with 1.67 inches of rain. The rain came fast, with a high rain rate of 14.77 inches per hour! My super rain gauge funnel was blown out, and I found it 50 feet away under a pine tree."

That kind of damage now ushers in another period of rain delays to corn and soybean planting. Though not good news, it could be worse if the last week prior to Sunday's storms allowed some major planting strides. Wind says 90% of his area's corn and 40% of its soybeans are planted. Other farmers say they expect 60% to 70% of the nation's corn to be planted when USDA releases its weekly Crop Progress report Monday afternoon.

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