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Rain Likely to Give Crops a Much-Needed Drink

Timely rains set to return for the weekend in parts of the central Midwest, forecasters say.

It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy crop year for weather with rain that kept farmers from planting in the spring, followed by a week-long dry spell that threatened crops.

Now, a more normal pattern is on the way with several parts of the Corn Belt seeing rainfall.

Some decent rain fell in parts of the south-central Midwest this week, with more on the way, said Donald Keeney, a senior ag meteorologist at Maxar in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“Rains will return late tomorrow and Friday and continue through the Midwest through the weekend,” he told Agriculture.com. The best chance for precipitation include northern portions of Missouri, most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

The rain is coming at a critical time for crops.

About 90% of the U.S. corn crop is silking, behind the prior five-year average of 97% for this time of the year, according to the USDA.

Some 39% is in the dough stage, behind the average of 61%, and 7% was dented, less than half the 16% normal, the USDA said in a report earlier this week.

About 57% was rated good or excellent, unchanged week to week but down from 70% at this time in 2018.

The soybean crop also is behind with 82% blooming, behind the normal 93%, while 54% were setting pods vs. the average of 76%, the agency said in its report.

Fifty-four percent was in good or excellent condition at the start of this week, unchanged from the previous week but down from 66% at this time last year.

Commodity Weather Group said in a report to clients Wednesday morning that the best chance for showers heading into the weekend is in the Midwest, but moisture stress is focused on central and southeastern Iowa, central and southeastern Illinois, central Ohio, and parts of Michigan, or about a quarter of the Corn Belt.

“Follow-up rains also (are) needed soon in southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa, northwest Illinois, northwest Indiana, and northern Illinois,” CWG said in its report. About 15% to 20% of the region is at risk to remain too dry, the forecaster said.

Parts of the western Midwest have received ample rainfall in the past seven days. A stretch from North Dakota south into northern and eastern Kansas has received more than six times the normal amount of precipitation in the past week, according to the National Weather Service.

Iowa, most of Minnesota, northern Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, however, have received little rain, the NWS said.

The good news, Keeney said, is that those areas should see “significant improvement” in the next seven to 10 days. In Indiana and Ohio, however, the lack of soil moisture will intensify, he said.

CWG said the showers will benefit filling of the crops.

In the Northern Plains where all the rain fell in the past week, crops are inundated with moisture. Some light rains are possible in the area in the next seven days, which could further slow the harvest, Keeney said.

So far only 8% of the U.S. spring wheat crop has been collected, well behind the prior five-year average of 30% for this time of year. In North Dakota, the biggest producer of the variety, 5% has been harvested vs. the normal 23%, the USDA said.

Spring wheat as of Sunday was rated 69% good or excellent, down from 73% a week earlier and 75% at this time last year.

“Excessive rain (is) unlikely as the Northern Plains (and) Canada wheat harvest begin, but occasional showers slow wet spots in North Dakota, South Dakota, (and) eastern Montana,” CWG said.

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