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Western Corn Belt Could See ‘Record October Rains’

Heavy rainfalls are continuing to slow down harvest on the western side of the Corn Belt, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.

“It’s a problem, a major problem,” says Dale Mohler, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. “And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Harvest has already been made tricky with wet grounds from consistent rain in September. Now, over the next eight to 10 days, 3 to 6 inches of rain is expected in northwest Missouri, up through Iowa, and most of Wisconsin, according to Mohler.

“It could get pushed back by a week-and-a-half to two weeks,” Mohler says. “So instead of finishing in late October or November, to get to 85% or 90% completion, you may have to wait until mid- or late-November this year.”

Eventually, things will clear up in the middle of October, allowing a small, week-long window for fields to dry up. From October 15-21, Mohler is expecting little to no rainfall in the most affected areas creating a “critical” time during the third week of October to determine how late harvest will last.

“It looks like by next weekend it will be a dryer pattern setting up, and that dry pattern is going to last at least until the following week,” Mohler says. “It’s probably a six- or seven-day window, pretty dry weather once the rains clear out.”

Harvest has been able to stay on track and, in some states, even ahead of the percentage harvested compared with past years. According to the USDA crop progress report, as of September 30, Iowa farmers have harvested 11% of their corn crops so far this year; Nebraska is at 17%; and Kansas comes in at 47%, all up from the average of the last five years.

The early-season advances will help soften the blow from what will be a very wet October.

“I haven’t seen a harvest disrupted this much in a long time,” Mohler says. “I can’t think of the last time we had a really slow, wet harvest.”

These wet conditions may cause farmers to expend time and money drying out crops manually, Mohler says. As the season progresses, the duration of sunlight will decrease and the angle of the sun will lower, diminishing the natural drying, further emphasizing the importance of that third week in October.

“Usually by hook or by crook we get [harvest] in,” Mohler says. “But if it’s this wet, this could be some record October rains here in those areas I’ve mentioned west.”

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