By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) -- Harvest weather may be favorable in much of the Midwest in September and concerns about an early first freeze for many farmers may have diminished, DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said Wednesday during DTN's harvest weather outlook webinar.
Anderson said despite concerns across the Corn Belt about an early freeze, DTN's forecast calls for a normal or average first-freeze date in many regions.
In most central and Northern Plains areas, crops will "race the average" first freeze date, he said. In many areas where crop development is behind, Anderson said the first freeze date needs to lag by at least one week to help crops make up ground.
"If there is a freeze in the last 10 days of September, there will be crop damage," he said. "In some areas, crops will have a chance of meeting maturity."
The first freeze date in places like central Nebraska and central Iowa, for example, usually falls during the first 10 days of October.
"Usually in this area the first freeze is not a big deal," Anderson said. "Not this year."
In the southern and Eastern Corn Belt, an October frost date will be likely, he said. "It is in a part of the country where planting was very, very late," Anderson said.
In the north and central Midwest, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting below-normal harvest temperatures.
"In our view, in the upper atmosphere high pressure is ridging," Anderson said.
Low pressure in Western Canada is a "weak feature," he said. However, NOAA forecasts call for low pressure to move south, leading to above-average precipitation and below-average temperatures.
In DTN's view, Anderson said there will be near- to above-average temperatures in the fall for many regions, which is favorable for late crop development.
He said the good news for farmers across much of the Midwest is that in the next 10 days upper air features indicate major crop areas are unlikely to get "real cold, real fast." That's because a zonal flow of high pressure across the U.S. should allow favorable temperatures for crop development.
Anderson said this may bode well for states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin where crop development is woefully behind as a result of a series of wet weather events in the spring.
Over the next seven days, however, Anderson said there will be a cooler trend for the Northern Plains and the northern Midwest.
When it comes to precipitation during the next seven days, Anderson said there will be an area of moderate-to-heavy rainfall from the northern Midwest to the Southeast. The Eastern Corn Belt is likely to see just areas of light precipitation in the next seven days.
Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and others in the upper Midwest face a deficit of 50 to 100 growing degree days. In the western and northern Midwest, Anderson said, the cooler pattern has not allowed crop maturity to continue.
During the July-to-August time frame, he said the eastern Pacific Ocean has cooled, moving from an El Nino pattern to neutral.
"When the eastern Pacific has cooled the response is hotter and drier in the Southern Plains," Anderson said.
When it comes to precipitation, Anderson said September throughout the Plains will not be quite as wet as NOAA's forecast.
One wildcard to consider is the level of storm activity in the tropics, he said. Currently there is an elevated potential for tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico to include a forecasted 16-named storms.
"Tropical activity is one potential problem for the fall weather harvest outlook," Anderson said.
"Harvest is going to be late. There will be a lot more grain dried down than we've seen in some areas."
On a positive note, Anderson said recent 1- and 2-inch rainfalls in central areas of the Midwest came at a time when crops needed the moisture. "It is going to help, I don't think we can discount that," he said.
Despite a favorable fall forecast, Anderson said it's difficult to say how the wet spring weather, which led to 19 million acres of prevented planting this year, will affect the final harvest.
"It was a very wet year -- well above average in most states and near-record amounts," he said. "It has caused a whole lot of complications. There are still areas of concern. This is not going to go away."
In looking at the vegetation index as of Aug. 1, Anderson said there are many areas of the map colored in brown -- indicating areas of zero vegetation.
"It illustrates the kind of acreage loss and prevented planting we're dealing with this year" in areas across the Corn Belt, he said.
One question asked is whether prevented planting acres were on subpar quality acres.
"There's some of that, but also real good ground that was too wet to plant," Anderson said. "We do have uneven crops all over the place."
Anderson pointed to McLean County, Illinois, an annual powerhouse corn-producing area that turns out consistent crops. As of Aug. 21, he said the county's corn crop is facing lack of pollination and extreme variability.
"It is an area where usually development of crops is uniformly large," he said. "We're not seeing that this year."
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN
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