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Weather starter: Harvest window opens

Jeff Caldwell 09/23/2013 @ 2:16pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Though rain fell late last week and into the weekend in parts of the Corn Belt, look for any interruptions to fall harvest to be few and far-between over the next few days as conditions allow for rapid final maturation of the corn and soybean crops, weather experts say.

Though much of the region's been in dire need of moisture, the last 5 days of precipitation's been largely too little too late for farmers, with a few small exceptions for late-developing soybeans.

"Rains were widespread across the Midwest late last week and early this past weekend, improving soil moisture some, but slowing corn and soybean drydown and early harvesting. The rains were too late to provide any significant boost in corn or soybean yields," says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley. "Drier weather is expected in most areas this week, which should favor corn and soybean maturation."

That's not to say there are no chances for moisture; Tapley says showers are likely in some spots around the Midwest, but Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., says those showers will do little -- if anything -- to hold up harvest work getting underway in earnest this week.

"The best chance for measurable rainfall through the end of the week will be across the Northern Plains and the western Midwest, with some indications that the Ohio Valley could get in on the action towards early next week," Freese says. "The majority of the next 7 days will be dry, however, and with warm temperatures crop conditions for maturation and harvest look quite favorable."

Moisture's not the only storyline in play right now; chilly overnight temperatures were common over the weekend, and that's fueling some speculation that a killing frost may not be far off. But, according to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM) on Monday, it's important not to assume an unrelated condition -- the phase of the moon -- is influencing your freeze chances.

"Very cool overnight temperatures visited the state this past weekend with lows approaching freezing over northwestern Iowa on Saturday morning. This very cool weather was close to the most recent full moon late last week. There is a saying in weather folklore that the first freeze of the fall season often happens on the full moon as having a full moon impacts the profile of water vapor which allows temperatures to more rapidly cool," according to the IEM on Monday. "These events happen at about any time during the lunar cycle. The reason that this folklore gets perpetuated is that the first frost is almost always on a clear sky night with limited water vapor in the air, so any moon will appear very bright and crisp."

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