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Cool Weather Comes at a Bad Time for Late-Planted Crops

Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s this week slows crop maturity.

Cool weather that’s made its way into the U.S. Corn Belt is coming at a bad time for late-planted crops as they need more growing degree days to finish maturity.

Only 71% of the corn crop was in the dough stage as of Sunday, well behind the prior five-year average of 87%, according to the Department of Agriculture. About 27% is dented vs. the normal 46% for this time of year, the USDA said in a report this week.

Some 94% of soybeans were blooming as of August 25, just behind the 99% average, though only 79% have set pods thus far, trailing the normal 91%, the agency said.

Dale Mohler, a senior commodity forecaster for Accuweather in State College, Pennsylvania, told Agriculture.com that the Midwest isn’t stuck in a prevailing pattern right now, which is good and bad. Much of the Corn Belt will see a cool, dry weather pattern heading into the weekend, with temperatures below normal – bad timing for crops that were seeded later than normal.

“The coolness isn’t what we need right now,” he said. “We need some warmer weather to get these late-planted crops to maturity. Cool weather is a detriment. You’d like to see it a little warmer.”

Temperatures in the northern Corn Belt likely will be in the 70s while those in the south will top out in the low 80s. In St. Louis, for example, the normal high for this time of year is about 84°F., and temperatures for the next few days are expected to be between 80°F. and 84°F., Mohler said.

A band of showers has hit much of the central Midwest in the past 30 days as more than six times the normal amount of rain has fallen from the Canadian border with Montana south into the western Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, according to the National Weather Service.  

Parts of eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, and southern Illinois also have seen excessive rainfall in the past month, the NWS said. Much of the area has dried out some in recent days, and only light showers are expected in the next week to 10 days, Mohler said.

Next week, a pattern over the Midwest will keep any moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to the south, which will allow for a bit of a warmer, drier trend, he said.

Temperatures will be back into the mid- to upper 80s in the Corn Belt, which will give maturing corn and soybeans a boost, Mohler said.

“The weather in general is pretty positive next week,” he said. “Some places, especially Iowa, could use some rain because the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten dry.”

QT Weather’s Allen Motew said this week there’s a possibility for a freeze in the northern Midwest toward the end of the first week of September. He also said his weather models show rains will be “limited” in the next 10 days.

Mohler said he doesn’t expect frost or a freeze until early October or late September in the extreme northern U.S. While that normally wouldn’t be a problem, crop maturity is so far behind that it could keep some plants from finishing their normal growth.

Still, he said, temperatures likely will stay above 31°F., which doesn’t have the same propensity to harm plants as temperatures of 26°F. to 28°F.

Looking forward, The Farmers’ Almanac said in its 2019-2020 winter outlook the Midwest will suffer from a “polar coaster winter” that will leave the northern Plains “frigid and snowy” and the southern Midwest and Plains “chilled” with average precipitation.

The eastern Midwest, including much of Illinois and Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, will be frozen and snowy, the Almanac said in a report released this week.

“The biggest drop – with the most freefalling, frigid temperatures – is forecasted to take hold from the northern Plains into the Great Lakes,” the Almanac said. “The northeast, including the densely populated corridor running from Washington to Boston, will experience colder-than-normal temperatures for much of the upcoming winter. Only the western third of the country will see near-normal winter temperatures, which means fewer shivers for them.”

The Farmers’ Almanac uses mathematical and astronomical calculations to produce its forecasts, taking into account several factors including sunspot activity, tidal actions, and several other factors.

January will be especially difficult for the eastern half of the U.S., which could mean lots of precipitation and gusty winds, according to the report.

From the Texas Panhandle to the Great Lakes, a “memorable storm” producing heavy snow is expected in the third week of January.

“This system will cause temperatures to plummet and drag the coldest Arctic air across the rest of the country into the beginning of February,” the Almanac said.

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