Ag Weather Forum

Relief Across the North

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Precipitation across the northern tier of the country through May 25 will be a welcome relief to dry fields. (DTN graphic)

Corn planting continues its quick pace as 80% of the intended acres have been planted according to the latest USDA Crop Report. That includes near completion for the Western Corn Belt states of Minnesota (95% complete), Iowa (94% complete), and Illinois (86% complete). States with significant planting yet to complete are mostly in the Eastern Corn Belt, but these states are still mostly ahead of the normal pace. Only two states significantly trail the average planting pace -- Ohio and Colorado -- likely both because of cold weather.

Soybean planting increased another 19 percentage points to 61% complete and well-ahead of the normal pace of 37% complete for this date. This is also 10 percentage points ahead of last year's rapid pace. The only state trailing the average pace is Louisiana where heavy rainfall continues to have a negative impact on equipment being able to get into the field.

Of course, the dryness in the northern Corn Belt has led to very good planting conditions, though germination has likely been negatively impacted by both the dryness and cold over the past few weeks. That is changing dramatically this week.

A ridge of high pressure is building across the eastern U.S. while a couple of troughs are moving and stalling into the West. The flow between the two is transporting moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northward through the Plains and western Midwest. Models suggest that these conditions are expected through about May 23 before the ridge flattens and gets cut off from the Gulf of Mexico moisture source. Even though it may become a bit more of a severed connection to the Gulf of Mexico, there will still be a stream that moves through the Central and Southern Plains.

Showers in these areas of the Plains has been rather steady and widespread during the last two weeks and drought continues to be reduced from Texas to Colorado in a big turnaround from expectations two months ago. Though temperatures have been below normal for much of these areas during the past month, the increased moisture is certainly welcome.

The temperatures though, have caused slow development on winter wheat across Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska, where wheat is only 58%, 5% and 8% headed, respectively. All three states are behind the average by at least 10 percentage points. The rains have led to some improvement by a couple of percentage points in the good-to-excellent ratings across the Plains, but there was some decrease in Texas where good-to-excellent ratings fell from 30 percentage points to 25 percentage points this week.

Back to the north, increased precipitation for the next week will dramatically improve soil moisture conditions across the drought areas in North Dakota and the dryness across the northern Midwest. Overall, models are predicting widespread amounts of 1 to 2 inches of precipitation. With thunderstorms being introduced, there will likely be areas that see more than this.

Major production states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which have received very little precipitation so far in May, will gladly take the precipitation. With corn planting nearly complete in these states, the crops will take full advantage of the moisture.

Not only are showers increasing, but temperatures are as well. Over the Midwest, temperatures will be 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the next week. This will be a great reversal in the cold temperatures that have been around for the last week or two, helping to accumulate enough growing degree units (GDU) for soybeans (typically around 90 GDUs) and corn (typically 100-120 GDUs) to germinate.

In a post on the Iowa Environmental Mesonet website on May 17, corn planted on May 3 in the Ames, Iowa area has yet to accumulate the necessary 120 GDUs for emergence. The situation is similar across other northern states that have been stuck in the cold. Two weeks in the ground without emergence is not ideal, but that will be changing rapidly. The increase in moisture to go along with the emergence is likely to improve crop conditions and prospects for early in the season.

A look ahead at the summer forecast reminds us that conditions could turn right back around. The DTN long-range forecast is still calling for hot and dry conditions across the Corn Belt this summer. There may be a continuation of the above-normal precipitation in the Corn Belt in June, but turning hot and dry for July and August during reproduction phases of corn and soybeans. There is some uncertainty in this, but only if you like the American CFS model, which is the only indication of above-normal precipitation across the Corn Belt in July or August.

The Iowa Environmental Mesonet post can be found at:…

John Baranick can be reached at


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