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Farmers Will Need Earmuffs for Their Combines

The frigid temperatures arrive Sunday in the Corn Belt.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Farmers are enjoying pleasant harvesting temperatures this week, compared with the deep freeze-like temperatures arriving this weekend.

Recently, the weather has shifted toward a somewhat drier pattern, including colder temperatures. AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler projects more dry weather to come. 

“There’s less large-scale storminess and more in the way of dry, cold air across the Midwest, so that should benefit the harvest,” Mohler says.

The dry, cold weather should benefit the majority of farmers across the Corn Belt, but Mohler expects the southeast Corn Belt – from Missouri to Ohio and maybe into southern Michigan – to receive some rain and snow.

Frigid Weather Coming

The rest of the Corn Belt appears to stay dry in the short term, but plummeting temperatures are expected to continue and affect the entire Midwest next week.

“It looks like the coldest air, the coldest weather will be moving through the Midwest Sunday [and] Monday in the west and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in the east,” Mohler says. “During that two- to three-day period, in a given location, temperatures are going to be 15°F. to 20°F. below normal, which is staying probably below freezing by day and falling into the teens and single digits at night.”

The cold spell could assist the Dakotas and Minnesota with harvest. Soggy conditions continue to push back corn harvest progression with South Dakota at 27% corn harvested, North Dakota at 10% complete, and Minnesota at 44%, according to the USDA.

With wet conditions, the frozen ground will help farmers in the area who have dealt with excess moisture, Mohler says.

Next Precipitation

The weather lends itself to cold but favorable conditions for the rest of this week and next week, but more precipitation will arrive later this month, according to Mohler.

After a couple of dry November weeks, a light precipitation — mostly rain — will hit the Midwest on November 18 or 19.

“It looks like out toward November 18-19, that’s about 12 days out [from November 7], there may be a pretty widespread precipitation event – mostly rain – across the Midwest from west to east,” says Mohler.

From the start of 2019 to November, nearly every location across the Midwest experienced an increase in precipitation, generating challenges for farmers.

The USDA’s Crop Progress Report this week reveals more results trailing the five-year average for the week ending in November 3.

The late-planted crop sits at 52% harvested for corn compared with a 75% five-year average. Soybeans check in ahead at 75% complete, but still lag the 87% five-year average.

With the clock ticking on harvest, Corn Belt farmers in most areas of the region will receive better conditions during the middle part of November.

Fieldwork?

The upcoming cold spell will freeze the ground in most northwest Corn Belt areas, which will benefit Minnesota and the Dakotas with harvest, but the ground is expected to remain frozen, according to Mohler.

“Once the ground freezes, which is happening now up in the northwest corner [of the Midwest], it’s probably going to stay frozen the rest of the winter,” Mohler says. “Now farther south, it may just freeze a thin layer on the top, like in Iowa and northern Illinois, and that may not be deep enough. 

“It may thaw out a bit later on in the month, but if you get far enough north, Minneapolis, Bismarck [North Dakota], Aberdeen, South Dakota, those places, I think the ground that’s freezing now will stay frozen the rest of the winter.”

Mohler notes that areas in Indiana, Missouri, and other southern areas of the Corn Belt generally don’t see the ground freeze until late December or even January, so spots in those areas could receive a brief freeze but a thawing is likely to follow.

Flipping the calendar to December, when almost all of harvest should be wrapped up, the chilly temperatures return. At this point, next month appears to look a bit colder, but nothing extreme is expected.

“I don’t think December is going to be too unusual – probably a little colder than normal over the northwest [part] of the Midwest, maybe 1°F. to 3°F. below [average] and then close to normal down in the southeast,” Mohler says. “So nothing unusual there as far as temperatures – a little colder than normal the farther north and west.”

Outside of the cold, the unusually wet 2019 figures to close with an average amount of precipitation across the Midwest. 

“As far as precipitation, it’s probably near normal most places,” Mohler says. “I don’t think there’s too much deviation from normal in December.”

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