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Weather Starter: Rain, Snow Gut Fieldwork Potential

Widespread weekend rainfall transitioned into snow late Sunday and early Monday, leaving a blanket of white in parts of the country where farmers are itching to get into the field to get the 2014 crop year started.

Moisture amounts were plentiful in many areas, but they were hit-and-miss; weather-watchers with the Commodity Weather Group said Monday morning the rainfall was heaviest in central and northeast Iowa, Wisconsin, central Michigan, parts of Arkansas, and southeastern Missouri, and reaching into the Delta region along the Mississippi/Louisiana state border. That rain transitioned into snow in many spots, with as much as 3 inches falling in parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Areas of the latter two states are where the anomalous winter precipitation -- and the temperatures driving it -- have the most potential for harm through this week. "While there will be another cold shot on Friday, the closest call will occur tonight," according to CWG on Monday. "While jointing wheat in Oklahoma and southern Kansas will see upper 20s, our forecast will keep readings in most areas slightly above damage thresholds, which are generally in the mid-20s."

Adds MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney: "Might be some freeze on the jointing wheat there tomorrow morning. Don’t expect a huge problem, but I do think there might be some isolated damage, mainly in far northwest Texas, far western Oklahoma, and far southwestern Kansas."

The weekend featured 50 degree-plus temperature swings as a system moved through the Corn Belt between Saturday and Monday, with temperatures on the former day hitting the mid-80s and the latter bottoming out in the upper 20s and lower 30s. Farmers reported with frustration some of the swings in the weather, from "gully washers" on Saturday to snow late Sunday and early Monday.

"Got .5 inch yesterday morning and still have some snowbanks left along line fences. Have one pond left that is going down very slowly because frost in the ground is keeping the tile from draining it," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk senior contributor lsc76cat. "With a high in the mid-30s tomorrow and low to mid-40s the rest of the week, the soil just ain't going to warm up very fast. Still a little early to plant anyway."

Adds Marketing Talk frequent contributor wglassfo: "Gully washer here last night. Ten miles away got zero. No rain gauge out for fear of being frozen," he says. "Was digging last week and most of the frost is gone. The soft red winter wheat looks the worst I have seen in many years. About like it did before folks stuck a bunch of tile in the ground."

That's the silver lining to the literal and figurative clouds hanging over the Midwest as the week starts: The moisture's done a lot to ebb the frost, some of which was in excess of 5 feet deep in the soil earlier this winter.

"A good soaking rain will do a lot to thaw the frost. Think of frozen meat that you take out of the freezer to thaw. It always thaws quicker when it’s sitting in water than it does just sitting in the open air," Keeney says.

Looking ahead through this week, temperatures will remain at or below seasonal normals once the current "quick-hitter cold shot" moves out, but the warming trendline won't be very sharp. Though there will be some relief from the cool, damp conditions, it will offer just slight improvements in the potential for fieldwork progress, Keeney says. But, by late this week and into next week, things should improve a lot.

"Showers across the central and southeastern Midwest and Delta are currently slowing fieldwork, but more limited rains Tuesday through Thursday should allow fieldwork to improve a bit," Keeney says. "Showers again Friday will once again slow fieldwork, though. Also, colder conditions and snow in the northwestern Midwest are keeping soil temperatures there low, which will maintain slow fieldwork there.

"By mid- to late-week, it will warm up. Not hot by any means, but definitely warmer," he adds.

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