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Rain in Northern Plains, Iowa Will Boost Crop Prospects, Still Too Late for Some Growers

Though it may have come too late for some, there are corn, bean, and spring wheat farmers in the northern Plains finally seeing some rainfall.

As much as 8 inches of rain – six times more than normal – have fallen in the past week in isolated pockets of North and South Dakota with at least 2 inches falling in the rest of the region, according to the National Weather Service.

The area had been dry the past few months with only isolated showers falling in some areas. That led to early cutting for some producers since plants had withered. The spring wheat crop as of Sunday was rated 33% good or excellent, and though that’s up a point from the prior week, it’s down from 66% a year earlier, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The good news for producers in the region who have crops left to grow: The rain will continue for much of the northern Plains for at least the next seven days, said Joel Widenor, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It seems like the bias for rains coming through in the next seven to 10 days will be in the northwest corner of the Corn Belt for a change,” he told Agriculture.com. “It’s a pretty potent system (in the Dakotas).”

Much of North Dakota, South Dakota, and northern Nebraska will see another inch or two of rain in the next seven days, which will, along with the precipitation that’s already fallen, boost crop prospects in the region.

The area is still in drought, though the area in extreme or exceptional drought, the worst-possible ratings from the U.S. Drought Monitor, has declined slightly week-over-week. About 44.09% of North Dakota is in an extreme or exceptional drought, down from 43.39% a week ago, according to the monitor.

Three months ago, zero counties in North Dakota were facing drought conditions.

The storm system that’s bringing rainfall to much of the northern Plains is moving down into the central Midwest and bringing rainfall to parts of eastern Nebraska and Iowa this week, Widenor said.

As much as 4 inches fell in eastern Nebraska on Tuesday and early Wednesday, which caused some minor flooding in low-lying areas, the National Weather Service said. Another inch or two is expected to fall before storms move east.

Forecasters at WxRisk.com said in a forecast this week that their models also show increased rainfall for at least the next 10 days in parts of the Plains and Midwest. About 75% of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and western Ohio will see rain activity in the next six to 10 days, the forecaster said.

Weather models also show coverage over southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, the northern half of Missouri, and west-central Illinois, WxRisk said. 

The precipitation in Iowa should alleviate some concerns about dry weather as soybeans, mostly, will benefit, Widenor said. About 40% of the state is seeing some level of drought, up from 36% a week earlier, according to the Drought Monitor.

As in the Dakotas, there was no drought in the state just three months ago.

“Iowa is desperately in need of this rain,” he said. “In terms of month-to-date rainfall totals, it’s still dry out there. There’s a lot more rain in store for the next week. It should notably reduce the driest areas in Iowa this week.”

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