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Mixed bag of weather challenging farmers

swisshippo/iStock/Thinkstock Corn field
First widespread freeze expected this weekend in Northwest, northern Rockies and northern High Plains.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported this week that an impressive ridge of high pressure has led to unusual warmth and dryness for much of the country. In fact, some regions have even experienced record-setting warmth.

USDA chief meteorologist Brad Rippey said this kind of weather is fantastic for getting a final cutting of hay or harvesting summer crops but added that it is also causing problems for some farmers.

“For anyone getting ready to or having already planted cover crops or winter wheat, there just isn’t any topsoil moisture,” he explained.

Winter wheat planting was 22% completed as of Sept. 22, slightly behind the same time last year and the five-year average.

In forested areas, early leaf drop has been observed, which Rippey said could contribute to an increase in wildfire danger.

On the soybean front, Rippey said some decent progress has been made, as soybeans have started to drop leaves at an increasing pace. While leaves dropped at more than double the pace of last week, he said it was still barely half of the five-year average pace at 34% on Sept. 22, nearly a record. “By comparison, looking at the last quarter-century, the record-slow pace for soybean dropping leaves [was] 33% in 1996,” he said.

On Sept. 23, 54% of the soybean crop was rated in good/excellent condition, while 13% was in poor/very poor condition. During the same week last year, 68% of soybeans were rated good/excellent, while 10% were poor/very poor.

Corn crop development is really far behind last year’s pace, Rippey reported.

“Denting has reached 79%, which is an improvement from last week’s 68% but still far behind the normal pace of 94% and last year’s 96%,” he said. Corn maturity is also behind, he reported, at 29%, just about half of the five-year average of 57%.

Corn improved to 57% in good/excellent condition and 13% in poor/very poor condition. Even with the improvements, conditions are still behind last year’s rate, at 69% good/excellent and 12% poor/very poor.

Despite the progress, Rippey said the first widespread freeze is expected this weekend throughout the interior Northwest as well as the northern Rockies and the northern High Plains.

“At this time, this initial surge of cold air does not look like it will reach the Upper Midwest,” he added.

This is welcome news for many farmers, he said, because they need extra time this year for their corn and soybeans to mature.

Pasture and range conditions remain mostly steady, with 45% rated at good/excellent. However, Rippey relayed that the very/poor rating increased two points during the week ending Sept. 22 to reach 24%.

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