Ag Weather Forum

Wetter Forecast Limits Planting Chance

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Rainfall totals over the Northern Plains and western Midwest have a return to moderate-to-heavy categories for the seven-day period ending Monday, May 20. (DTN graphic)

Well, that was a short-lived pattern change.

After the Friday, May 10, forecast details offered a more-promising setup for making some planting progress in this late season of 2019, the pattern is turning wetter -- and in some areas, much wetter -- for the seven-day time frame beginning Monday, May 13, and ending Monday, May 20. A rainier scenario was discussed in forecast presentations going into the Mother's Day weekend; however, a more-active atmosphere is moving the start of a new round of rain ahead by a couple days. Instead of rainfall over the Northern Plains and western Midwest beginning on Friday, May 17, the start time is now projected at Wednesday, May 15.

That's a precious 48 hours of reduced fieldwork time in much of U.S. crop country. We know that corn planting is lagging behind average, but time is getting tighter and tighter when it comes to trying to beat the clock on yield loss. U.S. corn planting is estimated to be somewhere around one-third complete on Monday, May 13. That's just over half the average 63% completion rate over the past five years. Producer stress is widely noted, and tales of multi-year slowdowns in progress are popping up all over crop country. For example, a social media post Monday highlighted a farm in central Illinois where, in the past 33 years, corn planting was done on average by the second of May.

The big driver of this renewed rainfall prospect is a re-formation of the upper-air pattern of trough west-ridge east. The circulation around those two features sends plenty of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the eastern Plains and the Midwest, and loads up the atmosphere for thunderstorm activity. Saturated soils also add to the available moisture supply through evaporation.

To add to the wet-weather return, temperatures have been more like March rather than May. For example, the National Weather Service office in Kansas City, Missouri, posted a cold Mother's Day item: "The past 3 days we have averaged 14 degrees below normal. It was the second coldest May 9-11 on record. The temperatures would've been normal for March 29th."

March in May. That's a tough scenario for a germinating corn seed even if the ground wasn't soaked up like a sponge.

So now, the focus turns to the final two weeks of the month. And, with the prospect of rain ramping up, the temperature trend still has a below-normal bias to it. The cooler and wetter trend is likely to keep planting progress maintaining this uneven situation through the end of May and into early June -- with possibly the final one-third of the U.S. corn crop still needing to be seeded after the Memorial Day weekend.

Bryce Anderson
Twitter @BAndersonDTN

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Bryce Anderson
5/14/2019 | 5:09 AM CDT
Slow planting pace is going on. The USDA weekly progress report Monday, May 13 shows U.S. corn planting progress as of Sunday at just 30 percent--only 7 percentage points up from a week earlier. That 30 percent is only half of the 59 percent complete a year ago and 36 points below the five-year average. This is the third-slowest start to corn planting on this date going back to 1993. In that year, only 27 percent of the corn crop was planted. 2013 saw 28 percent of the U.S. corn crop planted by May 12. In 2013, producers were able to plant a record-tying 43 percent of the U.S. crop during the week of May 13-19. Repeat chances look very slim during this coming week.