Planting has almost finished for the spring, as of June 7. Corn is listed as 97% complete, soybeans at 86% complete, cotton at 78% complete, and spring wheat at 97%. Only a few trouble spots remain, but the overall pace is above average and certainly well ahead of 2019.
Due to the relative abundance of showers and spring soil moisture, summer crops are off to a good start for the year, a welcome contrast to 2019. One place that remains out of the overall positive picture is in the southwestern Plains, namely western Kansas to eastern Colorado down through West Texas. Here, showers have been scant and unable to keep up with demand. The heat that occurred last week did not provide the region with any favors. There are poor to very poor wheat condition ratings in the region -- Colorado at 38%; Kansas 24%; Oklahoma 23%; and Texas 24% -- illustrate the heat and dryness stress. Yield reports will be watched for verification of the impact of dryness along with spring freezes. Hot and dry conditions have favored harvest activity, with Oklahoma harvest 19% finished and Texas 53% complete.
The combination of heat, showers and good soil moisture last week fostered rapid growth for most of the rest of the country. Heat this early in the season can be detrimental to crop growth, but the USDA Crop Progress report noted that conditions either stayed the same or improved a point or two for corn, soybeans, cotton and spring wheat.
The story this week is the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal, which came ashore in Louisiana the evening of June 7, and has since been working its way almost due north. The system has been bringing moderate to heavy precipitation up the Mississippi Valley, a welcome sign to some of the portions of the Delta, where short-term rainfall deficits were starting to show up. But, the rain has also produced stream and creek flooding thus far. Flash flood watches have been posted in the western Midwest through the morning of June 10 for rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches and locally much heavier as the storm continues its northward track.
The moisture will be needed, however. As the system pulls away from the region June 11, a notable dry trend is expected across the majority of the country east of the Rocky Mountains. A ridge of high pressure parks itself back into the area this weekend and turns the heat up a notch as well. Without adequate soil moisture, the heat would cause undue stress. The Delta, which is least likely to see showers for about 10 days following Cristobal's exit, is most at risk, while it remains dry in the southern Plains as well. Showers may still pass over the north as a couple of disturbances ride over the top of the ridge, but the widespread showers we have seen in the spring may be turning drier.
This comes at a time when La Nina has started to develop in the Eastern Pacific. This typically leads to hot and dry conditions in the U.S. growing regions during the summer. Should the La Nina continue to develop and hold in place, a concern over summer heat and drought would replace the beneficial conditions we have seen up to this point in the season. One thing that can put a good dent into summer dryness and drought is tropical moisture.
According to Stephen Strum, vice president of DTN's Frontier Weather, tropical storms will be key in reducing the risk of overall dryness in the middle of the country should La Nina strengthen, but would only be a break of heavy rain with flooding in the longer stretches of dryness. La Nina will definitely be on the mindset of forecasters and producers alike going forward this summer.
John Baranick can be reached at email@example.com
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