JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- While spring planting is well underway across some portions of the Midwest and the South, many regions are still waiting for Mother Nature to drop the green flag on the race to get into the field this planting season.
Depending on their location, many members of the DTN Farmer Advisory Group -- a panel of roughly two dozen farmers, ranchers and agronomists who report on crop conditions and current thoughts about agriculture -- had been in the field while others weren't close. When queried by DTN editors during the first week of April, many indicated that this spring has been an exercise in "hurry up and wait."
Kyle Samp, who farms in north-central Missouri, finished applying anhydrous ammonia during the first week of April and began planting as Easter arrived. By April 13, he had half of his crop planted. After having what he described as an "amazing year" in 2022, he said it's hard not to imagine a yield downturn for 2023.
"Missouri is always one week away from a drought," he said. "That will always be my concern every spring for as long as I do this."
To the east in central Illinois, Reid Thompson was grateful for the nearly 10 inches of rain that his farm had received since February. However, he figured that moisture would keep him out of some fields. He had planted about a quarter of his soybeans but no corn as of the middle of the month. Jennie Schmidt also expected to get the planter rolling around April 15 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which she said is about a week earlier than normal.
"We are a tad short of moisture overall for the year and had virtually no snow all winter," she said. "Except for a frigid Christmas, we've had a very mild winter with temperatures that mostly held in the mid-40s to low-50s (Fahrenheit) all winter."
On the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario, Dan Petker said his season is right on schedule with field conditions that felt "normal." He considered pulling out some planting equipment during the Easter weekend, but precipitation in the forecast tempered his enthusiasm.
"We've been getting a lot of rain, and the ground is very wet still," he said. "Our water table is in much better shape versus last spring, so there is a high amount of excitement among those who farm around me. Our spring start still depends on when and how much it rains between now and May."
DIFFERENT KIND OF PRECIPITATION
A different kind of precipitation was still falling in west-central Minnesota where Justin Honebrink farms. Instead of prepping his planter, he was still pushing snow in early April.
"We were really dry, so I will take the moisture any way I can get it," he said. "Right now, I think I will be able to get going in a month or so. It is going to be a compact spring, and we'll need to get ready quick once we can get going."
Mark Nowak, who farms about 4.5 hours south of Honebrink in south-central Minnesota, was also thankful for above-normal winter precipitation that has recharged the soil moisture to the point where water was once again flowing from field tile.
"We have enough moisture to get the crop off to a good start," he said, adding that snow still blankets fence lines and ditches. "My optimum date to start planting is April 25. If we can get an extended period of warmer, drier weather, we may be able to get started by the end of April this year. We found out last year, that despite planting two weeks later than optimum, we still had a very good crop."
Snow also continued to hang around for Kenny Reinke in northeast Nebraska in early April, although rapidly increasing temperatures were hastening a melt off.
"All the snow has definitely helped, but we're still in a drought here," he said, noting that his area had received 30 to 40 inches of snow this past year as compared to only 4 inches the previous winter. He said he expected his planting season to be on schedule with his soybeans going in during the last week of April and his corn to follow the first week of May.
BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO
In southeast Idaho, Dan Lakey would be thrilled to get into the field in May as his area has received more than 7 feet of snow this winter. After back-to-back drought years in 2021 and 2022, he said the snowpack was the best since the 1990s and has positioned his farm well for moisture this season.
"If we can get a crop planted in a somewhat timely manner, along with a few timely rains, we should be able to raise a decent crop," he said. "My biggest worry for the season remains the late start date."
In northeast Colorado, April snows have also fallen on Marc Arnusch's farm, keeping him out of the fields some. He said that while the calendar might suggest they were slightly behind pace for planting progress so far, his soils were cold and wet -- a nice change of pace from previous seasons.
"Our farm is in a much better place than we were this time a year ago," he said, noting that he had planted some barley. "Snowfall has been plentiful in December and January, and February temperatures kept the snowpack in place heading into early spring. The moisture profile on our farm is good; however, I am getting concerned about the availability of irrigation water supplies."
Water was also the primary concern for north Texas farmer Mike Lass, who said his pivots were making laps to keep his irrigated wheat going. He expected to plant corn soon, with cotton to follow in mid-May.
"The dryland wheat is going fast," he said. "We are still in severe drought conditions with lots of dirt and sand blowing around. Most of us who use cover crops have had them blown out. It's so bad that pastures are blowing out."
While planting conditions varied greatly among members of the DTN Farm Advisory Group, they all experienced similar trends when it came to inputs for the 2023 growing season. Prices seem to have leveled off or decreased for most crop-protection products, though a few increases were noted for a handful of products. Overall, supplies appear to be adequate going into the season, a sharp contrast to last year.
Jason Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @JasonJenkinsDTN
(c) Copyright 2023 DTN, LLC. All rights reserved.