Ag Weather Forum

Drier Forecast Opens a Corn Belt Planting Window

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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The European ensemble forecast model suggests drier conditions for the central U.S. during the second week of May. (DTN graphic)

Grain market news during the first week of May featured the slow pace of corn planting: 14% nationwide as of Sunday, May 1, 28 percentage points behind the 42% progress a year ago and 19 percentage points behind the five-year average of 33%. It's also the slowest planting pace since 2013. In that year, corn planting was only 5% planted by April 28 and just 12% planted by May 5. These two seasons have a major common weather element -- chilly and wet conditions in many large corn-growing areas, just when fieldwork should be ramping up.

Individual state planting lags include Illinois corn 7% planted, 36 percentage points behind the state's five-year average of 43%; Indiana corn 6% planted, 19 percentage points behind the average of 25%; and Iowa is 9% planted, 33 percentage points behind its average of 42%. No corn was planted in Minnesota compared to 54% of the crop that was planted by this time last year and the state's five-year average of 28%.

The USDA weekly crop weather bulletin for the week ended Sunday, May 1, highlighted the cool and wet conditions, notably in north-central states.

"Weekly temperatures averaged more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit below normal in parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas ... Red Lake River at Crookston, Minnesota, crested 12.07 feet above flood stage on April 24, the third-highest level on record behind 13.40 feet on April 17, 1997, and 12.33 feet on April 12, 1969 ... Meanwhile, the Red River at Oslo, Minnesota, achieved a top-10 crest by rising 11.58 feet above flood stage on April 27, followed by a similar peak in early May. Among the nine highest crests on record in Oslo, only two -- April 12, 1978, and April 23, 1997 -- occurred before the beginning of the 21st century ... April precipitation topped 5 inches in North Dakota locations such as Fargo (5.45 inches, or 354% of normal) and Grand Forks (5.47 inches, or 452%)."

However, it's also well known that corn planting in the 21st century can move rapidly when the weather window opens. Since about 2010, when real-time kinematics (RTK) and global positioning satellite (GPS) technology became widely adopted, just one week of open weather can result in big, big planting progress numbers. DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman noted how 2013 provided a sterling example. "It was nine years ago, corn planting progress went from 28% on May 12 to 71% on May 19," Hultman said.

And, as if on cue, the mid-May week is also offering warmer and drier conditions. The European ensemble model forecast Thursday, May 5, indicates rainfall totals across the central U.S. ranging from three-tenths of an inch to 1.5 inches, with much of that total occurring during the next three days. The suggestion is that the week after Mother's Day shows considerably more promise for drier conditions than we saw during April and the first few days of May. In addition, temperatures have a near to above normal component -- a big change from the very cool pattern that ushered in the month of May.

This combination will not be in place everywhere. The forecast also indicates no easing of drought conditions in the Southern Plains. But when it comes to corn planting, the progress outlook is the best that we have seen so far this 2022 season.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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