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Planting screeches to a halt

Jeff Caldwell 04/18/2011 @ 9:26am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

If you're itching to get back into the field to get your 2011 crop planted, one look at the weather for the next couple weeks indicates you might not want to hold your breath. It may be a little while before you can get back into the field.

"When it comes to the weather for the second half of April, what we have in store this year for the nation's midsection is about as bad as one could imagine for fieldwork," Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., meteorologist Craig Solberg said Monday morning. "Extended periods of dry weather during that time frame are completely out of the question, and even stringing together as little as two straight days of completely dry weather is going to be a real chore."

The moisture won't be excessive to the extreme; Solberg says much of the Midwest will likely see around 2 inches of rain over the next 2 weeks, but the real threat will be cold temperatures, with many 10 to 15 degrees below normal.

"If this isn't bad enough, cold temperatures are going to be a big factor over the next week with especially Iowa and points west and north seeing temperatures in that period averaging ten or more degrees below normal," he says. "We are not done with snow yet either, with Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas and northern Iowa likely to see accumulating snow over the next 48 hours."

That means planting progress, of which we'll get an update Monday afternoon with USDA's weekly Crop Progress report, will likely be well behind the normal pace.

"I would look for the national corn planting progress figure to be 6% for this afternoon's report, which would compare to the 5-year average of 8% and a 17% completion pace of a year ago," Solberg said. "We may be 10% or less done with corn planting for next week's report, which would compare with over 40% a year ago and over 20% for the five-year average. We may not be 20% done with corn planting by May 1, and last year on that same date the planting pace was record-fast at around two-thirds done."

'Caution flag'

Even if it is dry enough for your planter to roll through the field, the current temperature outlook for the remainder of April doesn't bide well for early seed corn growth in the field. If your corn sits in cool, damp soils like many out there right now, you could be facing uneven stands and ultimately, trimmed yields, says Iowa State University Extension agronomist Roger Elmore.

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