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Weather Starter: Severe Storms Slam Planting Window Shut

It's going to be the middle of the week at the earliest for a lot of Corn Belt farmers whose land was the target of widespread rainfall, including some severe, damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes. But the same system dropped much-needed rainfall in the parched Plains, giving some hope that region's wheat crop may yet have life left.

A line of storms stretching from northern Texas to the Great Lakes swept east late Sunday and early Monday, dropping inches of rain and spawning severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. As much as 2.5 inches of rain fell in parts of the Plains, but coverage was spotty and some now wonder -- with the hard red winter wheat crop's usual maturity coming up soon -- whether that moisture meant much to the drought-pained crop.

"Rains overnight in central Kansas brought .5 to 2.5-inch totals that will ease stress for heading wheat, and the southwest third of the Plains remains driest," according to Monday's Commodity Weather Group (CWG) Ag QUICKsheet. "Rains late in the six- to 10-day may again reach central/northern Kansas, but the best chance to narrow remaining dry spots is in Oklahoma in the 11- to 15-day. This could limit the most severe dryness to the southwest quarter of the belt, although the rains will likely be too late for notable recovery in Oklahoma at this point."

Crop conditions got some help from the Sunday moisture -- and will get more from expected cooler-than-normal temperatures forecast in much of the nation's center -- but it may just be delaying the inevitable for some farmers, like Agriculture.com Marketing Talk veteran adviser Shaggy98, who farms in central Kansas.

"My gauge shows I received .74" total . . . only a fraction of the amount that is needed, but it will allow us to limp along a few more days. One nice thing is our temps are forecast to be below normal for the next 10 days. That will help preserve this moisture," he says, adding his area's wheat crop will likely amount to 10% to 20% of normal yield, while pasture conditions will likely support cattle numbers "the lowest, at least, in my lifetime.

"Corn? Only if you're nuts or have irrigation and still have available water. Soybeans: Kind of like corn, or the few select few who farm for an insurance check might be in business this year," Shaggy98 adds.

Crops were only a minor concern Sunday in parts of Nebraska and Iowa, where severe storms and tornadoes destroyed homes and damaged property. Even where the landscape wasn't littered with storm debris, the effects of the storms -- and the accompanying heavy rain and hail -- were immense.

"The western Midwest is off to a wet and soggy start. Over the last 24 hours, rainfall totals have reached 1 to 2 inches across east/central Nebraska eastward into much of central and western Iowa. Widespread 0.5 to 1.0-inch amounts occurred across central and especially southern Minnesota and also northern Indiana into western Ohio," says Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc.

"I'm sure 10 miles (or less) away from here in the heavier soils, this rain was not welcome.  After the frog strangler left here last night, it went over to where they certainly didn't need it, central Wisconsin," adds Marketing Talk adviser jennys_mn, who farms near Cannon Falls in southeastern Minnesota. "And unfortunately, they are going to probably have to endure one more day of additional rainfall. Not that it matters much anymore, the ground is so saturated there now, that any additional will just run off anyway."

Now, both the mounting planting delays and effects of the recent heavy rainfall on seed already in the ground are causing major concerns among farmers in a wide swath of corn and soybean country.

"Water standing on fields now. Corn is not up yet . . . not a good thing coming," says Marketing Talk senior adviser Hobbyfarmer. "Peak yield is being reduced."

Looking ahead, corn planting should be able to kick back into gear later this week, at least in part of the Corn Belt. The silver lining to the figurative and literal clouds barreling over the area where farmers are running to get this year's crop in the ground is that the recent rainfall has a few key parts of the region caught up on moisture after a couple of largely dry growing seasons, says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.

"There will definitely be planting delays through tomorrow in the majority of the corn/soybean areas. However, the western Midwest will dry out mid- and late week, and planting should resume there. This will be especially beneficial in northwestern areas. However, delays will persist in the central and eastern Midwest, as showers continue there through Friday," he says. "The central and southwest Midwest could still use some more moisture to bring levels to normal, but I think that will happen with the system today into early Tuesday."

As for the adjacent area where problems lie on the opposite end of the spectrum, the concern moving through this week isn't excess moisture as much as it is cool temperatures. Up to 2 feet of snow could fall in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and as the system moves east, some of that white stuff could fall in parts of Nebraska and Kansas. Though temperatures could slide to dangerously low levels for that region's already-embattled wheat crop, they likely won't inflict much damage.

"They are getting snow in western Nebraska and northern Colorado, and it will be a bit cool Tuesday morning, but I don’t expect any major damage to wheat," he adds.

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