Mega-Rains Make for Mega-Harvest Challenges

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Farmers across much of Minnesota are bracing for a difficult time getting crops out of the fields due to a much wetter than normal August-September. Minnesota also experienced two mega-rains in one year for the first time since such records have been kept.

A mega-rain is defined by the state office of climatology as a rainfall event in which at least 6 inches of rain covers more than 1000 square miles, with a core area receiving at least 8 inches of rainfall. An area in east central Minnesota met these criteria on July 11-12, while Central and Southeastern Minnesota endured a mega-storm on August 11-12 of this year.

These mega-storms are indicative of a generally wet pattern persisting across a large portion of the state, with many areas approaching 150% of their 30-year average annual rainfall.

The DNR climate office maintains a list of mega-rains, based on a network of daily rainfall reports from weather observers across the state. This weather observer network began in the 1970s. The climate office has also used newspaper and other accounts to identify mega-storms dating back to the early years of statehood. One of the first recorded mega-rains occurred in August, 1866 in southeastern Minnesota, killing 16 people.

In addition to harvest challenges, many farmers will also find it necessary to go to a back-up plan for tillage and nutrient applications, especially for those producers with wet fields and manure storage structures reaching capacity. Conditions will also mean more wear and tear on machinery and the potential for mud on roads. Above all else, take extra precautions and have a safe harvest season.

The photo shows a road and farm field near Waseca after heavy rains hit the area on September 21-22, a storm that did not meet the area criteria for a mega-rain, as it covered only about 500 square miles with 6 inches of rain. Regardless, much damage is evident throughout the area. Thanks to Vicky Singlestad for sending the picture.

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