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Corn Belt’s Fall Weather to Arrive This Weekend

October’s harvest activity to be delayed by rains.

DES MOINES, Iowa --After a wet spring, some crops around the Corn Belt need to buy some time to reach maturity. The crops may receive some warmer temperatures in the coming days, but the uptick in heat could preface a damp harvest.

The USDA released a progress report Monday revealing that 94% of the corn crop is in or beyond the dough stage in Iowa, which comes in two weeks late compared with last year and the five-year average. The USDA pegged 8% of Iowa corn as mature. Meanwhile, 96% of soybeans started setting pods, marking a two-week delay compared with the average, and 5% of soybeans are dropping leaves.

Season shift set to hit Midwest

With October looming, hot temperatures will pop up later this week before the Midwest transitions into the fall season.

“As far as the Midwest is concerned, this week is a warm week,” says Dale Mohler of AccuWeather. “Temperatures across a good chunk of the corn and bean belt of the Midwest are going to be in the 80s to even some low 90s for the southern Corn Belt; that’s right on into the weekend from St. Louis to Chicago on eastward.

“When you get farther west, it’ll start to cool off a little bit toward Saturday and especially Sunday. There’ll be a cold front coming through. Essentially, that front, what it’s going to do is take us from summer to early fall.”

Mohler says the weekend front will shift temperatures from the 80s down to the 70s, which is where the temperature usually falls during late September. 

While the Southern portion of the Corn Belt is expected to dip into the 70s, Mohler says Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota could dip into the 60s.

Aside from the temperatures, rain is projected to be spotty around the western portion of the Corn Belt until Friday, and some areas will receive .5 inch to 1 inch before the weekend front arrives and dries out the region. 

On the flip side, the east side of the Corn Belt remains dry until Friday, and showers could arrive on Saturday and Sunday. 

Harvest Rain

Early October could see an increase in rainfall totals and frequency, according to Mohler. The rain could affect harvest around the Midwest, and it likely will be spread out throughout the early part of the month.

“If you’ve got one big rain event, then you have 12 days of dry weather, that’s one thing,” Mohler says. “If you have four or five rain events over 12 days, that’s barely enough time to dry out, and you have the next rain coming through. So I think it’s going to be more like that.

“I think it will probably slow down harvest activity early in October because it’ll be a little wetter than normal.”

First frost dates appear on schedule

After a late planting period due to rain and a potentially wet harvest early on, the first frost plays a big role in this year’s harvest cycle.

“It doesn’t look like there will be any frost before Oct. 1, even up there in the northwest,” Mohler said.

Despite avoiding a September frost, the northwest could still see a frost between October 5 and 8; Mohler calls it a “50-50 chance.”

For areas like Iowa and Illinois, Mohler aims for mid-October for the first frost of the fall. 

Even if the frost stays away until October, the drop in temperature could still impact the crops. In the northwest part of the Corn Belt, cooler temperatures hamper crops’ ability to grow after being planted later than normal. 

A state like North Dakota could feel the ramifications of a temperature decline. North Dakota experienced a late planting season, planting only 81% of its corn when the USDA released its June 3 report, compared with 93% on average.

In the USDA’s latest release on Monday, North Dakota’s corn consists of 92% at the dough stage (99% a year ago), 38% dented (91% a year ago), and 3% at maturity (43% a year ago). Minnesota and South Dakota follow similar trends.

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