DTN Field Roundup

Moisture Concerns in May Nearly Universal Among DTN Farmer Advisory Group

Jason Jenkins
By  Jason Jenkins , DTN Crops Editor
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From Maryland to Nebraska, some members of the DTN Farmer Advisory Group expected early planted soybeans to finally emerge and take off this week. (DTN photo by Jason Jenkins)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- After an April characterized by below-normal temperatures and rainfall for large portions of North America, nearly all members of the DTN Farmer Advisory Group had made it into the field with their planters by the first week of May.

The panel of roughly two dozen farmers, agronomists and ranchers, who report on crop conditions and current thoughts about agriculture, shared several common threads when queried by DTN editors: Cooler-than-normal temperatures had slowed emergence of early planted crops; winter wheat was doing well in most regions, with the exception of the High Plains; and moisture was a concern nearly everywhere.

In west-central Ohio, Genny Haun reported that as of the first week of May, the planter had not yet rolled across a single acre of their operation, though she said the 10-day weather forecast looked more promising. Similarly, roughly 80 miles to the south, Keith Peters of Ashville, Ohio, had only planted about 40 acres of beans.

"It's been wet and unseasonably cool," he said. "We could have planted a few days, but we waited due to the weather. Now I'm questioning that decision. It's really split around here with some guys having planted quite a bit, and others like myself having just started."

The situation in Ohio was in stark contrast to Jennie Schmidt's situation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where one field of corn and all their full-season beans were planted before a 3-inch rain chased them from the field.

"Despite those 3 inches, we are still several inches behind on moisture for the year," she added.

Near Princeton, Indiana, Scott Wallis was nearly finished with soybean planting as the month's first week ended and was about halfway through corn planting.

"We aren't dry or wet right now," he said. "The ground is working as good as it has all spring, and the crops are planting real nice."


Across the border in the Land of Lincoln, Reid Thompson was also nearly finished planting both corn and seed beans. Like Schmidt in Maryland, his biggest concern was future precipitation.

"While we have moisture in the furrow, more is needed to ensure max (yield) potential," said Thompson of Colfax, Illinois. "We did a few tile jobs this spring, and we have a few tile shutoffs to install. Given the dryness, finishing those probably needs to be a top priority."

In northwest Iowa, rain at the end of the first week of May paused corn planting, said Jay Magnussen of Paullina. In the five days preceding the rain, he estimated that 75% to 80% of the corn was planted.

"Our planting progress had been slow. Super-cold temperatures held most farmers out of the field," he said. "I was actually surprised that farmers around me waited, as they usually start planting with the calendar instead of the ground temps."

Ashley Andersen said soybean planting was three-quarters complete and corn planting underway on their farm near Blair, Nebraska, about a half-hour north of Omaha. Abnormally chilly conditions had slowed crop emergence, which she noted probably was a good thing. "We are thinking we can make it through without having to replant anything," she added.

Of greater concern was rainfall, or more specifically the lack of it. After enduring drought in 2022, winter brought little in the way of snow to help recharge the soil profile.

"We have had a couple rain showers, but they haven't been big ones," Andersen said. "We will take the moisture, but at the end of the day, the little ones won't cut it. We seem to be in a pocket where rains skip right over us."

Farther west in Neligh, Nebraska, Kenny Reinke said his operation experienced a very dry fall last year, but it was followed by lots of snow and cooler weather this spring that slowed his planting progress.

"It's basically like we are a month behind or just plain skipped April," he said, noting that his beans were all planted but corn planting was on hold until conditions dried out a little. "We're not behind yet. I'll be happy if the corn is in by May 25. This spring period should be our wet season, and it's trending dry, unfortunately."


Concerns over moisture extended from Texas to Canada. On the Llano Estacado in north Texas, crop adjusters had already visited Mike Lass, nearly zeroing out his winter wheat crop. He had turned his cattle out onto CRP ground for emergency grazing.

"We are still feeding cattle; there's not much green grass yet," he said. "I haven't started planting yet but will get going soon. We're pre-watering right now and hopefully will start planting cotton in two weeks."

In northeast Colorado, Marc Arnusch wasn't yet convinced that spring had truly arrived, but the colder weather hadn't caused any abnormal crop damage. He noted his winter wheat was off to its best start in at least five years.

"This spring has been cool and overcast, which has really allowed the wheat crop to tiller and send down roots," he said. "Planting of our spring grains has gone well, and I imagine we will begin planting corn in the coming days."

Though moisture has been more abundant so far in 2023, Arnusch said that as May began, he was still feeling the effects of several years of drought.

"Many of Colorado's reservoirs were empty going into winter," he explained. "The great snowpack we have is helping; however, in my neighborhood, our irrigation water supplies are not good. In fact, we will have less water in 2023 than in 2022."

Across the border in south-central Alberta, Canada, John Kowalchuk reported unseasonably warm and dry conditions as he finished planting his hard red spring wheat and turned to seeding malt barley.

"Seeding conditions have been great, so lots of acres will get done in the next couple of weeks in my area," he said. "However, the topsoil is dry down to about 3 inches, so we need a rain soon. I'm really looking forward to that first big soaker and watching the crop emerge."

Jason Jenkins can be reached at jason.jenkins@dtn.com

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Jason Jenkins