Planting is nearly finished for corn at 90% complete and getting close on soybeans as well at 75% complete according to the latest USDA Crop Progress Report. For corn, it is 10 percentage points ahead of average and for soybeans, it is an impressive 21 percentage points ahead of average. The Eastern Corn Belt states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania showed the greatest progress from last week as drier and warmer weather brought about good conditions in which to do so. Wetter soil conditions across the Delta continued to keep progress a bit slower for soybeans.
Speaking of wetness, rainfall last week was quite substantial across the middle of the country. Rain was fairly widespread through the Plains and across the western Midwest. A good 1 to 2 inches of precipitation fell from Nebraska and Iowa northward, though it included some snowfall in western Montana. Rain was even more generous to the south where 1 to 4 inches were more common with isolated higher amounts.
Not every area saw the good rainfall. There was a strip from central Kansas through western Minnesota that received less than 1 inch along with some other drier pockets embedded in the wetness. However, the overall widespread rainfall should have improved crop conditions. With corn and soybean conditions set to return in later Crop Progress Reports, we cannot calculate how much improved these prospects are. Still, the ample rainfall does appear beneficial for both crops as long as seed was in the ground. And for the majority of the U.S. crop, it was.
We can look at wheat conditions, however. This is the first week that spring wheat condition was added to the report. And here, the effect of the Northern Plains drought is noted. The overall spring wheat good-to-excellent rating total is just 45%. North Dakota, which produced almost half the total spring wheat crop in 2020, has only 31% of the current crop rated good to excellent; this shows the impact of extreme-to-exceptional drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In the eastern sector of the region, Minnesota's spring wheat rating came in at 84% good to excellent. Wheat conditions continue to suffer in the Northwest drought for both winter and spring varieties.
Farther south in the winter wheat areas, the rain did not have the intended effect for most areas. Good to excellent ratings remained fairly stable for Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas, but dropped from 59% to 51% in Oklahoma. This is despite the good rainfall for most of the region. Colorado was the only state to see an increase in ratings, going from 32% to 44% good to excellent. Most of the crop has already headed in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. And indeed, rainfall will not have a positive impact on the crop for much longer as the crop starts to mature, but it may have come as a surprise that the rainfall did not help out much regardless. That strip of lighter rain caught central Kansas, but not so much in Oklahoma or Texas, where it was on the wetter side.
The next week offers another week of good rainfall for much of the Plains and Midwest. Again, there will be places that get left out and those that receive more due to the nature of thunderstorms, but the widespread rainfall will be good again for corn and soybeans in most areas. The exception may be across the far northern U.S. where showers may miss or be light.
In the Central and Southern Plains, rainfall may be too much of a good thing. Forecast rainfall of another 1 to 3 inches and locally heavier could affect headed to ripening wheat from Nebraska south to Texas. Some flooding could occur in these areas as saturated ground from last week continues to be rained upon this week. But for the drier spots from last week, this rain should be good for soil moisture, creating mixed conditions for the winter wheat crop.
Forecast temperatures also need to be considered. Outside of the far northwest Plains, temperatures soared to well-above normal last week, helping corn and soybeans to germinate and progress to accelerate. One of the systems this week will spread cooler conditions in the northwest Plains and Canadian Prairies southeast May 26 through May 30 before temperatures go back on a rising trend. That warm-up may not occur in the Central and Southern Plains, however, as daily showers and cloud cover keep temperatures down. Regardless, crop development will be on the slower side for several days coming up.
John Baranick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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