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Dry conditions expected to continue into 2021

As seen in the Aug 23, 2020 Lincoln Journal Star

Main Street Data
Main Street Data, an ag data science company that forecasts yield, forecasts dry conditions through January 31, 2021.


The Minnesota Ag Statistics report for mid-August determined that crops were well ahead of last year and a couple of percentage points ahead of the five-year average.


Virtually all (97 percent) of soybeans were setting pods by Aug. 16, compared with 90 percent on average and just 83 percent in 2019.


Corn was 12 percent dented – right in line with the five-year average, and 11 percent ahead of last year.

An early start to the planting season and generally warmer temperatures assisted in crop development in Minnesota.


“Overall, the summer has been warm with a preliminary statewide average temperature since June 1, about 2 degrees above normal, and precipitation about 0.75-inch above normal,” said climatologist Pete Boulay, Minnesota DNR Ecological and Water Resources.


A group of severe thunderstorms occurred on Aug. 10 in Iowa and Illinois, which received the “derecho” classification. The timing of the Aug. 10-11 derecho hit the Iowa corn crop while it was reaching maturity and swatted millions of fields to the ground.


As of Aug. 16, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said that early estimates put significant damage on 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans in 36 Iowa counties.


Boulay says there is not any one reason the 2020 derecho occurred, but Minnesota has experienced derechos in the past, and these generally occur in July or August, he said.


He pointed to the July 4-5, 1999, Boundary Waters-Canadian derecho that traveled 1,300 miles. Within the Superior National Forest, the storm cut down 30 miles of trees in a swath 4-12 miles wide.


Another derecho developed July 12, 2015, and caused widespread damage from southern Wadena County east to Crow Wing County. In its path were Todd, Douglas, Pope and Stearns counties. The Minnesota metro area was hit with lightning, sparking house fires. The storms then intensified into Wisconsin and moved southeast. By late afternoon on July 13, the line of storms had moved all the way to eastern Kentucky.


In 2020, Iowa received the worst damage from the derecho, but just a few days later, Aug. 14, at least 11 tornadoes touched down across central Minnesota.


Uprooted trees, as well as damage to vehicles and outbuildings, were common. According to the Minnesota Climatology Office, rainfall amounts in the Grand Rapids area were over 6.5 inches.


Just ahead of the Aug. 10-14 storms, record-setting 2020 corn yields of 183 bushels per acre were forecast by Main Street Data, an ag data science company.


The forecast is 4.5 bushels per acre above the 178.5 bushels per acre forecast by the USDA. According to Main Street, the most significant contributing factor to the bumper crop is optimal weather conditions occurring during the critical silking stage. The yield forecast did not take the derecho into consideration.


“Our yield forecast responds to changes in the weather forecast, and we believe in this approach – especially in high yield years like this year,” said Bob McClure, chief data scientist with Main Street Data

He forecasts temperatures to cool off and remain mild for the rest of the growing season. Precipitation is hit or miss, he said.


As of Aug. 11, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated short- to long-term drought in western and central Iowa, as well as drought conditions in west central Minnesota and southeastern Minnesota. Dryness was also noted across western North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as into northern Illinois and Indiana.

“Certainly there are some below normal areas, but it doesn’t look quite as bad as the percentiles allow,” McClure said.

He forecasted that conditions will dry out through the end of October, and that dryness will continue into January.

“Calling the national numbers as soon as possible, and then zeroing in on local acres as accurately as possible, is vital to enable the agriculture ecosystem to improve and optimize their decisions,” McClure explained. “We expect our number to be higher than USDA and other forecasters, so we wanted to release it now to let growers, retailers, lenders, insurers and traders plan accordingly. It’s going to be a big year, and we want the industry to make the most of it.”


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