Harvest Weather Forecast

Read Time: 3 minutes
September 22, 2020
John Mioduszewski
Environmental Data Scientist, Bayer Crop Science

What to Know for the Harvest Home Stretch

While this summer saw many localized extreme weather events, the overarching story of the season was widespread and excessive heat in June into July. Overall, this summer was a hot one across most of the country, posing additional challenges for crops progressing through their more vulnerable reproductive stages. 

In August, a severe derecho moved through the Corn Belt causing significant crop damage primarily in Iowa. This squall line took advantage of the hot, humid air in the area and favorable upper level dynamics to become a self-sustaining system that swept hurricane force winds across Iowa and into northern Illinois and Indiana. This derecho evolved rapidly and was not forecast well, and it was exceptional in the severity of its winds over an area of hundreds of miles.

The weather has certainly thrown some big challenges at many farmers so far this season. And with Sept. 22 this week marking the first day of fall, the question on everyone’s mind is: what is yet to come for harvest?

How’s Harvest Weather Looking?

In a word: promising. With the exception of parts of Iowa and the central Corn Belt affected by drought, most corn and soy acres across the Midwest are in good shape and progressing slightly ahead of average, allowing us to make the most of the relatively cooler and drier weather coming our way throughout September and October. On the whole, we may experience some isolated, localized challenges down the road, but nothing too widespread.

Total Precipitation Percentiles
June–August 2020 | Ranking Period: 1895–2020

Data Source: 5km Gridded Dataset (nClimGrid)
Mean Temperature Percentiles
June–August 2020 | Ranking Period: 1895–2020

Data Source: 5km Gridded Dataset (nClimGrid)

We’re Not Quite Out of the Woods

Despite a generally positive outlook, the one caveat is that we’re still in hurricane season — and it’s an extremely active one. With at least five tropical cyclones that have already impacted croplands around the country since late May, the next one or two months could bring additional challenges to farmers on short notice, particularly those throughout the lower Mississippi Valley, Southeast, and along the East Coast.

Early Planting May Take the Bite Out of Frost

With generally ideal conditions in much of the country, many farmers were able to do their planting early. While we can’t quite tell if we’re likely to see an early frost, lots of farmers are well situated to avoid the risk. In the Upper Midwest, including parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota, the second week of September already brought temperatures near the freezing mark. But elsewhere, if you were able to plant early, you should be in better shape for any unexpected cold weather surprises in the next month.

This Harvest Season’s Shaping up Nicely

Looking back at the past decade, we haven’t experienced much change in the date of harvest. If anything, we’ve noticed a slight trend toward earlier harvests because spring planting dates have been a little earlier, but there’s little to indicate that this season will deviate much from those generally experienced throughout the last ten or so years. The temperature trends of the last decade or two are weak, and not as notable as the trends toward earlier spring onset.

Can You Tell if a Storm’s Brewing?

We can’t always rely on the forecast to know exactly what the weather is up to. It pays to understand the conditions for yourself. Put your knowledge to the test to see how well you can read the clouds that roll in on your farm with our interactive “Name That Cloud” graphic. 

Give it a go - hover over the circles next to each cloud to learn more.

Curious to see how your answers stack up against an actual weather scientist? (That would be me!) Take a look at the videocast where I play Name that Cloud with Around the Farm podcast host Rick Myroup, who is the digital marketing lead at The Climate Corporation.

With that, I wish you great weather and a bountiful harvest in the coming months. Thanks for reading! 

About the Author

John Mioduszewski is an environmental data scientist at Bayer Crop Science, working at the intersection of weather data and plant breeding. Prior to joining Bayer, John was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison studying Arctic climate change. John holds a PhD from Rutgers University and a bachelor’s from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.