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Weather Starter: Mild Temperatures to Continue in Midwest, Plains

After a weekend that saw mostly limited rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures for the most part, the trend of mild temps looks to continue over the next week or so, forecasters say.

Heat index readings blew past the 100-degree mark Sunday in parts of the central U.S., and those temperatures fueled spotty storms and showers. Some of those showers were still lingering in parts of the Corn Belt on Monday, but the cold front on which those showers rode were seen likely cooling things off later in the week, with moisture limited to a spotty level, forecasters say.

"A cooler pattern has shifted most of the wettest six- to 15-day weather into the central/southeast Midwest," according to Monday's Ag QUICKsheet from Commodity Weather Group LLC (CWG). "The wettest areas in the past two weeks have focused on far northeast Nebraska, central/southern Iowa, northern Illinois, and southwest Michigan. The spots from northeast Nebraska into Iowa/northern Illinois will be most prone to continued areas of standing water in low-lying fields as well as river flooding."

The groundwork has been laid over the last two weeks for those conditions to continue, but the news that cooler temperatures and moderate dampness will continue for the next week or so doesn't likely mean conditions like flooding and continued standing water in fields will necessarily get worse, says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley. In fact, cooler temperatures right now could aid the rapidly growing corn crop's maturation through a critical juncture.

"Showers will maintain wet soils in the northwestern Midwest, but should not be heavy enough to increase wetness or lead to any significant flooding. Soil moisture should remain abundant for corn and soybeans in most areas," Tapley says. "The temperature forecast has trended cooler today, with generally below-normal temperatures expected across the Corn Belt over the next 10 days. With the corn crop nearing the heat-sensitive pollination phase, this cool outlook will limit the potential for heat stress and should be favorable for the crop."

Meanwhile, the cooler, wetter trend continues to roll along in the central Plains, where hard red winter wheat harvest is moving from Kansas north into Nebraska. Though that region continues on the dry side, the moisture continues to prevent wheat harvest from reaching a quicker pace in its northward migration.

"Winter wheat harvest moved along well during the weekend, but showers slow progress in the Midwest through midmonth," according to CWG. "The central Plains also trended wetter in the six- to 15-day, and see some further delays."

As harvest continues through the Plains, wheat yields have been lower than average overall. Farmers in some areas are finding surprisingly high output, however; in Sheridan County in northwest Kansas, some yields are in the 50-bushel-per-acre range where earlier expectations were for less than half that. Findings like these have lent credence to the notion that the crop "has nine lives."

"Fields across Kansas continue to dry up as farmers statewide are scrambling to finish harvesting their wheat. Yields have continued to be lower than average, but have remained above expectations for the year's harvest," says Jordan Hildebrand of Kansas Wheat. "The quality of the wheat has dropped slightly due to the influx of rainfall, but still remains good overall."

Be it in the Plains or Corn Belt, the corn crop is probably not loving the excess moisture heading into tasseling. In areas where the soil has been consistently wet the last few weeks, corn root structures could be weaker than normal, making those plants susceptible to damage if disease, pests, or severe weather come along later on in the growing season, says Purdue University Extension corn agronomist Bob Nielsen.

"Because root function in saturated soils deteriorates, less photosynthate is utilized by the root system and more accumulates in the upper plant parts. The higher concentration of photosynthate in the stems and leaves often results in dramatic purpling of those above-ground plant parts," he says. "Damage to the root system today will predispose the crop to the development of root and stalk rots later by virtue of the photosynthetic stress imposed by the limited root system during the important grain-filling period following pollination. Monitor affected fields later in August and early September for the possible development of stalk rots, and modify harvest-timing strategies accordingly."

The same is true for soybeans; though that crop is likely to be a little better able to handle excess soil moisture, there are a few key things to look for if you think your crop is losing yield potential because of the water.

"Soybeans may be slightly more tolerant of flooding with little stand reduction if flooding recedes within two days through significant stand losses when flooding exceeds six to seven days," says Iowa State University Extension agronomist Mark Licht. "Flooded crops are more susceptible to diseases such as physoderma or crazy top in corn or pythium and phytophthora in soybean. Additionally, sediment buildup or caking on leaf tissue can limit leaf function causing diminished growth and development."

Despite these dangers, though, farmers remain largely optimistic that yield potential is still flirting with a bumper crop at this point in the season.

"Just back from a 425-mile, 28-hour trip out to northwest Kansas. Have not seen such good potential for the whole distance before. Probably 20% of the corn is tasseled and most of the rest will be in the next 10 days," says Marketing Talk esteemed adviser Hobbyfarmer. "Beans in the western 70 miles of Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and the whole of northern Kansas could not look better."


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