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Farmers rushing to get corn planted before rain hits the Corn Belt

Agriculture.com Staff 04/20/2010 @ 8:35pm

And, with the mostly warm, dry weather pattern to continue through this week, many farmers expect even greater planting strides.

"The date on the calendar is now becoming less and less of a factor in farmer's decisions on whether to plant or not, and with dry/warm weather early this week before big rains move in for the end of the week, I think that farmers will tend to 'push' things and this will be an extremely big week for corn planting across the nation," said ag meteorologist Charlie Notis with Des Moines, Iowa-based Freese-Notis Weather, Inc. on Tuesday.

"The most corn ever planted in any week on a national basis in recent years is in the 30% to 35% range, and I think that we might be able to score a week close to that for next Monday's numbers," he adds. "My guess for the national corn planting progress figure for the week ending April 25 would be somewhere in the 46% to 50% range, which would easily make this the fastest corn planting pace ever seen."

In a recent Agriculture.com AgPoll, half of the farmers responding say they're ahead of schedule, with another 28% saying they're right on time so far.

But, while corn planting is trending generally ahead of the normal timeframe thus far, farmers say that's not true everywhere. While some responding to the poll say they're already near completion, others are waiting out either lingering cool soil temperatures or rainfall.

The contrast in the latter is sharp: One south-central Nebraska farmer said last week he was waiting for the ground to dry after a 2-day rain event, while a farmer in south-central Kansas added "Lots of corn has been planted here...along with every pivot running just to get it to come up. My area has not had any rain for 6 weeks now."

Looking forward, the dry conditions dominating the outlook for the next few days in the Midwest will end this weekend. How wet will it get in the Corn Belt?

"Most of the Corn Belt will able to continue with fieldwork activities right through Thursday, with eastern parts of the region probably able to get some fieldwork in on Friday," Notis says. "Areas further west will see rain on Friday, and all of the Midwest will experience a wet weekend before the rain moves out on Monday. Rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches will be common from that storm, but localized rains will be even heavier."

Looking further out, just how long this type of wet weather will stick around is still largely in question. There are some indications that it could be the start of a longer cool, wet period, says Iowa State University ag meteorologist and agronomist Elwynn Taylor.

"Forecasts for cooler and moist weather in the western half of the Corn Belt may signal a shift to the persistent pattern of cooler than usual temperatures and above normal precipitation that were characteristic of 2009," he says.

That shift could come as the current El Nino weather pattern over the northern hemisphere -- one of the shortest such periods in recent years, Taylor says -- winds down. But, the key factor to watch moving forward is whether El Nino gives way to a La Nina pattern, one that typically signals more drought potential for the Midwest. Thus far, Taylor says that transition isn't a certainty.

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