Freeze hits U.S. northern crops, rains to slow southern harvest

Chicago | Reuters — A weekend freeze across the northern Plains and upper U.S. Midwest likely hurt immature corn and soybean plants, reducing crop quality more than yields, agricultural meteorologists said Monday.

Morning weekend lows in the Dakotas, Minnesota, northern Iowa and Nebraska ranged from the mid-20s to low 30s F. The chilliest temperatures were in North Dakota where corn and soybeans are more vulnerable to damage as crops are further behind in development. The weekend low at Bismarck, N.D. fell to 26 F (-3 C).

“There were crops that were immature and I would expect there was some decline in quality,” said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. in Kansas City. “As far as a heavy impact on production — I wouldn’t think it was all that substantial.”

The extent of the weekend freeze will likely not be known until harvest given the variability in corn and soybean maturity, crop specialists say, but the government’s weekly crop report released Monday afternoon could reflect some damage.

Harvest delays were expected this week in the eastern Corn Belt as heavy rains were forecast to move through, while the western Midwest should be mostly dry, meteorologists said.

Areas from Ohio to Indiana and Kentucky were expected to see showers on Monday and Tuesday. Another storm will move through the southeastern Corn Belt from Thursday to Sunday, remnants from Tropical Storm Simon, bringing several inches of rain to the region.

“Harvest progress is going to be slowed to a standstill late this week in the far southern Midwest and northern Delta,” said Josh Senechal, a meteorologist at Freese-Notis based in Iowa.

“So there is going to be a pretty good contrast from north to south for harvest – north is going to be much better, the south is going to struggle,” he said.

— Christine Stebbins is a Reuters correspondent covering grain futures markets from Chicago.

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