Storm System Ends Long Strength of Dryness Across Great Plains
A powerful storm swept through the Great Plains last week, increasing field moisture in hard red winter wheat country and ending a long stretch of dryness.
Precipitation averaged .45 inch in the main bread-wheat states. Conditions were significantly wetter in Colorado, northern Kansas and Nebraska where up to 1.5 inches of precipitation developed, a mixture of rain and wet snow. Strong showers are viewed as highly beneficial for hard red winter wheat, replenishing topsoil moisture following a dry January in the Great Plains.
Further back in time, December was extremely wet in the US heartland, both the Great Plains and Midwest, where 2-3 times the normal rainfall developed locally more. Flooding in the Midwest soft red wheat states Missouri and Illinois occurred in one of the wettest Decembers ever recorded.
Fluctuating Winter Temperatures
It has been a winter of weather extremes in the United States heartland as both temperatures and precipitation have fluctuated wildly. Weather conditions in February warmed up in the heartland, a sharp reversal from January cold previously.
Midwest temperatures in early February have moderate 9-12 F above normal. It felt more like spring than winter in the Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, the Midwest soft red winter wheat areas. Indeed, the unusually warm weather promoted slow growth in wheat.
Vegetation was robust in the southern Great Plains the deep blue and green on the February 3rd image indicating above average wheat conditions. Midwest vegetation was rather meager in soft red wheat states.
The weather forecast calls for much colder conditions in the Midwest in the week ahead. Surges of polar air are expected in the upcoming week a reminder that winter is not over. Temperatures are expected to drop 10-20 F below average. Freeze damage in wheat is not expected as minimum temperatures would bottom out near 8- 10 F. Sub-zero F cold is not expected, so damage to the soft wheat crop is not anticipated.