Ag Weather Forum

Drier Trend Brings Crop Uncertainty

Mike Palmerino
By  Mike Palmerino , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
Forecast rainfall during the seven-day period through mid-June has generally only light amounts for the major U.S. crop areas, including the Midwest and the Northern Plains. (NOAA graphic by Scott R Kemper)

Much drier weather than expected in the Midwest during the past week favors planting and crop conditions, but dryness in the Northern Plains has severely affected wheat prospects.

A week ago, it looked like much of the Midwest was going to be affected by a continued wetter-than-normal weather pattern slowing crop planting and development. However, just the opposite was the case, as rainfall moved off towards the south and east allowing for, in some cases, the most fieldwork days all season. Also, this past week was the driest in the Iowa in the past 16 weeks.

This warmer and drier trend has allowed most of the corn to be planted, as well as soybeans in the west. There are still soybeans to be planted in the east. Crop ratings for corn improved; this was led by Minnesota, which was up nine percentage points from a week ago. We expect this favorably drier trend to continue during the next five days, with the chance for an increase in showers and thunderstorms during the six-to-10-day period.

Drying continued in the Northern Plains during the past week, and may have been damaging to spring wheat. Short to very short topsoil has risen to 54% from 36 to 38% a week ago. This drawdown in soil moisture is having a severe effect on wheat conditions. Spring wheat overall had a seven-percentage point decline in good to excellent condition totals last week, to just 55% good to excellent.

The Dakotas and Montana are especially hard-hit with this drop in conditions: North Dakota spring wheat rates just 52% good to excellent; Montana only 48% good to excellent, and South Dakota just 25% good to excellent on spring wheat.

For row crops, the drier trend has allowed most of the corn and soybean crop to be planted. More moisture is critically needed for wheat, and is also necessary for row crop germination and development. However, the forecast is very uncertain: mainly dry over the rest of this week, and features only light to locally moderate rainfall during the six-to-10 day period.

In the Southern Plains, the pattern remained unfavorably active during the past week, with several occurrences of rain. This was reflected in continued deteriorating crop ratings in Oklahoma and Kansas. The Kansas winter wheat rating this week, at 43% good to excellent, is 17 percentage points below the 60 percent good to excellent total last year at the same time. Oklahoma's good to excellent total of 40% is 24 points below last year's 64% good to excellent.

The outlook calls for near- to below-normal rainfall during the next week. This will improve conditions for maturing wheat and the increasing harvest, which will be moving into Kansas soon.

Our latest calculation of the sea surface temperature departure in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean for the month of May was 0.7 degrees Celsius above normal. This was down from the 1.2 degrees above normal observed during the first half of May, but was similar to the 0.8 degrees Celsius above normal observed in April.

Where the sea surface temperatures go from here is anyone's guess. However, at this time I favor the idea of temperatures trending neutral to slightly above normal for most of the remainder of the growing season.

Michael Palmerino can be reached at



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Bryce Anderson
6/7/2017 | 5:55 AM CDT
According to DTN contributing analyst Joel Karlin, the spring wheat crop rating at this point is the second-lowest on record, with only the 1988 early June rating being lower.