Ag Weather Forum

Cold Ahead for Crop Areas

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Temperatures fall well below normal May 8-12 east of the Rocky Mountains, including some below-freezing readings. (DTN graphic)

The end of April into early May saw planting continue to progress quickly across the country, despite having to work around periods of showers. According to the USDA Crop Progress report issued on May 4, corn is already halfway planted (51%, fastest in five years). Soybeans (record pace 23%), cotton (18%), and spring wheat (29%) also saw good gains from last week and, of course, over last year. However, spring wheat planting is still behind the normal pace, especially in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Showers continued to move through portions of the Plains and Midwest over the last week. More than 2 inches precipitation was observed for large portions of Illinois through Michigan. Elsewhere, drier conditions in the Plains and western Midwest allowed for large gains in planting.

Rain has continued to elude the southwestern Plains, where drought persists and winter wheat conditions decline. The Kansas crop ratings did show slight improvement, but primarily due to rain in northern portions of the states. Very little rainfall has been observed over the last month for southwest Kansas through southeast Colorado south into West Texas. Drought can enhance heat, and it certainly did for West Texas where temperatures exceeded 100F for several days. Overall conditions for cotton planting have been unfavorable and only advanced 3 points this week in Texas, though is still ahead of both last year and the average pace.

Looking ahead, the main feature in the next week is a notable round of colder conditions. The stars are aligning, so to speak, in the upper atmosphere. Reduced tropical forcing in the Pacific Ocean will allow the jet streams to line up, and "phase" or synchronize. When they do, you can bet on some persistent conditions, likely an area of persistent heat and persistent cold. For the U.S. late this week into early next week, that pattern will set up with hot and dry in the West and cold and somewhat wet east of the Rockies. Low temperatures will likely fall below freezing for a large portion of the Northern Plains into the Midwest May 8-12, and may push south of the Ohio River and into the Central Plains a day or two as well.

The cold comes at a very inopportune time. With planting progress significantly ahead of schedule, vulnerable plants are coming out of the ground. Corn especially ahead of schedule could be most at risk. Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana all have a portion of their plantings already emerged as of May 3 and are likely to see at least some additional emergence ahead of the arrival of the cold air. Winter wheat will also be at risk, though less likely, May 10-12 in Nebraska.

John Baranick can be reached at


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