Storms bring snow, rain to U.S. winter wheat regions

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 17, 2015 1:52 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Storms crossing the U.S. Plains, the southern Midwest and the Mississippi River Delta are bringing beneficial moisture to winter wheat crops, but floods threaten a few areas, an agricultural meteorologist said on Tuesday.

Storms produced 0.5 to 0.75 inch of rain in central and eastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and eastern Nebraska, with localized amounts of about 1.5 inches, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services. Eastern Kansas has been particularly dry in recent weeks.

"It's certainly going to improve (crop) conditions quite a bit across the eastern Plains," Keeney said of the moisture.

Snow fell in eastern Colorado and far western Kansas and Nebraska. Snow accumulations were mostly 3 to 8 inches by Tuesday morning, Keeney said, adding that some areas received 10 to 12 inches. The region produces hard red winter wheat.

The National Weather Service posted blizzard warnings in the area, noting hazardous road conditions that could complicate livestock transportation. Keeney said the storms should move out of the western Plains by late Wednesday.

Rain fell in the Midwest, providing welcome moisture for the region's soft red winter wheat as it nears winter dormancy. More than half the area of Illinois and Indiana and nearly all of Missouri were rated "abnormally dry" as of Nov. 10, according to the latest weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report.

Keeney predicted the Delta would receive 2 to 2.5 inches of rain by Wednesday morning, with localized amounts of about 4 inches. That should help crops in dry areas of the northern Delta, as well as boost low water levels on the Mississippi River, easing constraints on barge traffic.

Farther south, portions of Louisiana, Arkansas and eastern Texas are at risk of flooding, Keeney said. But a drier pattern next week should limit crop damage.

Temperatures should fall in the wake of this week's storms, with lows dropping below freezing through this weekend in western Nebraska and northwest Kansas. The cold spell should not threaten wheat, Keeney said.

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Richard Chang)