Ag Weather Forum

Drier Spring Offers Rain Buffer

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Sizeable areas in the Northern Plains and Midwest have had from 6-to-10 inches less precipitation in the past 60 days compared with the same period in 2019. (DTN graphic)

Mixed in with forecast commentary about oncoming rain for the central United States during the next week are anecdotes and images on social media showing field preparation and planting. It's understandable after 2019 when heavy rain and low temperatures plagued almost everyone and caused unheard of delays in planting.

The story is much different so far in the spring of 2020. In the past 60 days, which cover the last week in February and the first half of the meteorological spring season (March to May), some big production areas of the central U.S. have had a much drier trend. In the western and northern Corn Belt, most of the Dakotas; all of Minnesota; much of Wisconsin; northern and western Iowa; and all of Nebraska have logged precipitation totals that are from 6 to 10 inches less than the same period in 2019.

In the southern and eastern Corn Belt, it's the same story. Eastern and southeastern Missouri; almost all of Illinois; all of Indiana; most of Michigan; northwestern Ohio; and northern Kentucky have precipitation totals over the past 60 days that are from 6 to 10 inches less than the same time frame a year ago.

These precipitation totals would be concerning were it not for the fact that soil moisture profiles have been saturated for so long. Those profiles are still mostly at least in the 80th percentile as of Thursday, April 23. Moisture supplies are still ample.

Drier conditions during the past two months have also given a buffer in the event of a few days of rain. That's favorable for this planting season, because the next week does indeed offer 1 to 2 inches of rain over the southern and eastern Midwest, with locally up to 3 inches of rain. In addition, the fact that the heavier rains are not indicated over the entire Corn Belt suggests that northern and western areas will have lighter totals of 1 to 1 1/2 inches maximum. That, in turn, is a signal that fieldwork interruption is likely to be brief.

In summary: the drier stretch so far this spring has been much more favorable for fieldwork. Holdups due to rain continue to look much less problematic than a year ago.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @BAndersonDTN



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