Ahead of spring fieldwork season, there are some notable concerns on both the wet and dry angles in the central U.S.
First on the wet-ground facet, North Dakota and Minnesota producers and agribusiness folks alike are fully aware that soil moisture is at high levels. In fact, some portions of northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota still are not entirely finished with the 2016 corn harvest due to thawed ground followed by heavy snow. This situation leads to concern over fieldwork delays, delayed planting and even the specter of prevented planting. That would be a bit change from the past two springs; in both 2015 and 2016, generally warm and dry conditions let farmers get into the fields in a timely fashion.
At the same time, a large portion of the central and southern Midwest -- taking in portions of southeastern Iowa, much of Illinois and Indiana, and mot of Missouri -- is quite dry. Precipitation since last Oct. 1 -- the start of the "water year", which goes from the beginning of plant dormancy to the end of active plant growth -- is in many parts of this sector, running well under half the normal amount. In fact, almost all of Missouri is in Abnormally Dry or Moderate Drought stages according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In contrast to the northern areas, this part of the Corn Belt could use some moisture.
As it turns out, the most recent run of the U.S. Climate Forecast System (CFS) for March has precipitation patterns that meet the criteria for these two ends of the moisture spectrum very well. The CFS model features only about 1-2 inches of precipitation for the Northern Plains and northern Midwest during March, while at the same time indicating 3 to 4 inches in the southern half of the Midwest, with even more than that amount in the Delta and Deep South. If this prospect verifies, we would expect to see wetter conditions where it's dry right now, and drier conditions where the ground is, in some fields, likely saturated with moisture.
Such a pattern offers a strong hint at favorable soil moisture supplies over a wide area of the Corn Belt when the 2017 season gets underway.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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