Ag Weather Forum

Increasing Moisture But Cold

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Temperatures east of the Rockies will remain cold for much of the week, including frost risk the next few nights. (DTN graphic)

The rapid planting pace continued last week. I remember thinking that 2020 got off to a rapid pace, but this year is eclipsing that, despite a couple of weather issues. A look at the USDA's Crop Progress Report indicated an accelerated planting rate for both corn and soybeans. Corn is 67% planted, 15 percentage points ahead of the average of 52%. Soybeans are 42% planted, 20 percentage points ahead of the average of 22%. Spring wheat was also well ahead of the pace at 70% complete, 19 percentage points ahead of the average of 51%.

Colder air remained across the northern tier of the country last week, and a couple of frosty mornings were the result. This did not dissuade producers from planting as this portion of the country remained dry with excellent planting conditions. Southern areas were wetter, causing delays for cotton and soybean planting in the Delta and Southeast. Cotton planting is at 25% complete compared to the average of 26%.

Despite the cold in the north, crop emergence pulled ahead of average. Corn emergence is at 20%, compared to the average of 19%. Soybean emergence is at 10%, compared to the average of 4%. Spring wheat sits at 29% emerged, compared to the average of 20%.

Emerged crops this week are at risk of damage from frosts. Frosts have been almost routine across the Northern Plains but were sprinkled through the Midwest last week as well. This week, colder conditions have already produced more widespread subfreezing temperatures in the Northern Plains along with portions of the Midwest and in eastern Colorado. Cold air remaining in place, should produce a couple more nights of frosts and potential freezes, with damage possible for early-emerged crops. Even if damage does not occur, the cold will limit growth. Below normal temperatures since April have led to slow winter wheat development. Winter wheat is only 38% headed, compared to the average of 46%. Kansas has had a notable slow heading pace; at 28% headed, it is 18 percentage points behind the average pace of 46%.

On the positive side, beneficial rainfall has been noted. Moderate rains finally fell across the Northern Plains this past weekend, with 0.50 to one inch of precipitation from Montana through South Dakota, easing the drought and boosting soil moisture for germination and emerging crops. That same system brought moderate to heavy rain across the southern half of the Midwest down to the Gulf Coast, including a touch of snow mixed in across the northern edge of the precipitation band. A secondary system has been producing scattered showers for the western and Southern Plains since the weekend and will continue across Texas and the Gulf Coast to finish the week.

Soil moisture across many growing regions has been increasing, benefiting germination and early growth. The driest spot has been in the northeastern Plains and northern Midwest. The drought is likely to intensify on this week's Drought Monitor over eastern North Dakota. Some increased dryness and drought conditions across the northern Midwest are likely to remain or worsen as well. Another dry spot has been in the Northwest. The USDA has yet to update spring wheat conditions as it is early in the season. But winter wheat conditions have not been favorable particularly in Oregon, where drought has been worse than Idaho or Washington and with less snowmelt from the surrounding mountains. Precipitation does not look overly widespread or likely over the next seven-to-10 days, leading to more worry about both spring and winter wheat conditions.

The cold will slowly erode late this week and into next week from west to east as a ridge moves across the country. However, the ridge will be weak, and several disturbances will continue to line up in the West and move through the Plains and Midwest. These systems may be able to provide better moisture across the drier sections of the northeastern Plains and northern Midwest but could bring in some cold to the country as well, even if models are not showing it just yet.

With predictability in the models being lower and variability being higher in spring, we may see a change in the model output. But there are good chances up and down the Plains and across the Ohio Valley for beneficial moisture to continue for the next 10 days, and models have yet to cling on to any significant threat for frosts or freezes going forward.

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