Hurricane Gustav brings rain to Corn Belt

By Anna Austin | August 04, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 4, 2008 at 5:08 p.m. CST

Remnants of Hurricane Gustav brought rain to much of the South and Midwest. Due to a drier-than-normal August, farmers in the Corn Belt are welcoming the extra precipitation.

Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather Inc.'s agriculture expert and senior meteorologist Dale Mohler said most of the region could use some rain. As much as 3 to 6 inches may fall through central Missouri, with central and northern Illinois receiving 2 to 3 inches of rain. "Hurricanes usually have negative effects on crops, especially when you are near the coast, and are getting battered by wind," Mohler said. "But they also have some positive effects which get overlooked a lot of the time because headlines always cover the negatives—damage, fatalities, etc. You can't put a price on how much a few inches of rain fall is worth. You can do that to a building, but not the rain."

Mohler said most of the time, the harmful effects of hurricanes are gone by the time they reach the Midwest. "They are going to do some good as long as they are moving, and not stalling out. This storm looks like it is moving fairly steadily," he said.

Mohler added, Missouri and parts of Ohio may see a smaller amount of flooding, but the overall impact will be positive. "It is largely going to miss Ohio, though," he added. "And that is one of the driest parts of the Corn Belt. That's probably not a good thing, but it is the way things are lined up right now." The tail end of the growing season has been dry in Ohio and the soybean and corn crop yields may be slightly reduced as a result. "For an individual farm, it will be noticeable," he added. "But it will be a minor impact on the overall market."

As fall draws closer, Mohler pointed out one concern for many farmers is prospects of an early freeze. "We had a late start to the crops—so mostly, we're a little behind in general in maturing," he said. "Any time that happens, it pushes the crops closer to the first freeze." Mohler said if an early freeze occurs it may knock off some production. "It might cause problems. Right now, we don't see any specific threats past the middle of September—but as the month wears on, we may have some threats brewing—and we have to keep an eye on that. The overall weather patterns may be conducive to producing an early frost—everyone is nervously watching that."