Ag Weather Forum

Wet Spring Slows Planting, But Could Favor Early Crop Growth

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
The June 1-15 forecast from DTN suggests a continued active weather pattern across the northern half of country with increased precipitation for many areas. This period is an extension of an active forecast for the last two weeks of May as well. (DTN graphics)

A brief break in the active spring pattern brought more planters out into the fields last week. As of May 15, planting progressed rather quickly for corn and soybeans. Corn planting rose from 22% to 49% complete while soybeans jumped from 12% to 30% complete according to the latest Crop Progress Report from the USDA. You can find more information about those numbers here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Both numbers are still behind the five-year average, but the gap between current progress and the average pace closed quite a bit. States that beat the 27% increase in corn planting from last week were right in the heart of the Corn Belt with Iowa (43% increase), Missouri (33% increase), Illinois (40% increase) and Indiana (29% increase) leading the way. A similar situation was noted for soybeans, but more states were involved in bringing up the average pace. The states to beat the 18% overall increase in soybean plantings were Iowa (27% increase), Illinois (27% increase), Indiana (21% increase), Michigan (24% increase), and Arkansas (19% increase). Michigan and Arkansas also enjoyed more favorable planting weather last week.

But even states in the northwestern Corn Belt and Northern Plains that dealt with several days of moderate to heavy rain and severe weather last week showed significant planting increases. North Dakota has been the only state to have significant delays for corn and soybean planting, sitting at just 4% and 2% complete, respectively. The state averages 41% complete on corn and 24% complete on soybeans for this time of year.

The wetness in North Dakota and much of Minnesota has been too extreme, going from a drought-plagued 2021 to a flooded 2022. But much of the rest of the Corn Belt have significantly higher soil moisture at this time of year, Nebraska and Kansas notwithstanding. That increase in soil moisture is a stark turnaround and a factor to give producers hope for at least the start of the growing season. Plans have had to change, crops may have been forced to switch out, and delays have certainly come, but setting up a crop with good soil moisture usually is not a bad thing.

And the pattern is going to continue to be active for the next several weeks, likely through at least the first half of June. According to DTN Long Range Team Lead Nathan Hamblin, there is not anything in the models or analogs (forecasts based on conditions similar to current conditions in previous years) to suggest that the active pattern will erode any time soon. The pattern favors a ridge shifting through the southern half of the country while troughs building in the West bring disturbances across the northern tier of the country. "Above-normal precipitation is expected across the North-Central U.S. into the Midwest through the 30-day period ... This will keep an active thunderstorm pattern in place through the first half of June. This will continue to be a problem for spring planting," Hamblin said. Periods of showers and thunderstorms are not likely to be entire washouts every time they move through, but there could be areas that get more than their fair share while others seem to miss out more often.

Planting will have to find short windows in which to get work done and a continued eye on the forecast and the skies will be increasingly necessary as the latter stages of planting drive to completion. It will be more difficult to do in the already soaked areas around North Dakota. Other areas that are wet, but not too wet, could still find some good drying time. That may be enough to get planting done for most areas by June 1, but there will undoubtedly be some laggards in areas that are hit over and over again in the active pattern. Long windows like we saw last week, are not expected to be there.

In contrast, the drought conditions across the southwestern Plains continues to be a thorn in the side for those that are salivating at wheat prices. Unless it is being irrigated, it is hard to image much of a crop will be pulled out of fields this season. The active pattern to the north has continually missed these hard red winter wheat areas. Sometimes a few areas have gotten lucky, as thunderstorms have dotted the landscape every few days. But the coverage of such storms has been very spotty and has also come with severe weather.

Farther east, the Delta and Southeast U.S. have had overall fairly positive conditions most of the spring. It has been wet, but not too wet for most areas, allowing planting of soybeans and cotton to be near or ahead of schedule. The pattern that Hamblin laid out does not indicate favorable conditions, however. As he mentions in his forecast through mid-June, "below normal precipitation will be likely across Texas through the Southeast U.S. Drought concerns will increase in these areas." That, combined with above-normal temperatures under the ridge may cause some good-looking crops early on start to show signs of stress as we move toward the summer solstice.

And it is around the end of June or perhaps early July that the forecast changes to one that has been anticipated for quite some time, a hot and dry forecast for the country's midsection. The early moisture will be important once that pattern sets up. Because for July and August, the main timeframe for pollination and grain-fill, a lot of the Plains and Corn Belt are forecast to see adverse conditions. Without a good footing, crops would certainly have a much harder time. But with good early soil moisture, there is potential for more areas to survive with better yields.

To find more regional weather conditions and your local forecast from DTN, head over to https://www.dtnpf.com/…

John Baranick can be reached at john.baranick@dtn

John Baranick