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Rain, temps have planting window locked

Jeff Caldwell Updated: 04/15/2013 @ 3:41pm Agricultural content creator and marketer.

Are you ready to plant corn this week? You're not alone. But one person who's definitely not in that camp is Mother Nature. Chances are she's going to continue toying with your desire to get some corn planted in the next week or so with a forecast that's far from what is needed to allow much of any measurable progress to be made, forecasters say.

"Not a good week for planting in the eastern Plains and Midwest at all," says Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist with MDA Weather Services.

The 6- to 10-day outlook isn't soggy throughout; in fact, showers should lighten quite a bit by the latter stages of that timeframe. But, temperatures will remain generally well below normal for about two-thirds of the country, making drydown and soil preparations a slow grind.

"The continued cold will also keep soil temperatures quite low. Temperatures will remain cool into next week, but precipitation should be much lighter," Keeney says. "The cool temperatures will maintain low soil temperatures in the west-central and southwestern Midwest and northern Delta. This will maintain slow germination of corn."

Farmers in more northern climes are less concerned about planting corn and more worried about simply digging out. More than 17 inches of snow fell in Bismark, North Dakota, over the weekend. That makes a potentially cooler forecast a painful prognosis for that area's farmers. And North Dakota's not the only spot where snow's going to be an issue.

"A very potent storm system develops Wednesday and Thursday across the Plains and Midwest, and will push heavy rains into the west-central Midwest, with lots of snow again from Nebraska northeast into the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin," Keeney says.

That same time period will feature rainfall amounts of up to 4 inches in parts of Iowa and eastward, says Harvey Freese, senior ag meteorologist with Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa.

"Rainfall amounts will range from 0.5 inch in the far west Corn Belt to 2 to 4 inches in the central and eastern Corn Belt, particularly over extreme eastern Iowa, central Illinois, and northern Indiana," Freese says. "Flooding of already swollen rivers and creeks is likely."

Farmers, some of whom were already halfway through corn planting by this time last spring, report encountering conditions that are far from normal. This could mean some areas may struggle to see a planter wheel turning before May.

"Headed to the low 70s here today BUT looks like rain ALL week long, then cold next weekend," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk senior contributor ECIN. "That will put us around the 20th or 21st of April. That's about go-time here. It has been so windy, there's no spraying or spreading really getting done here."

Adds Marketing Talk veteran contributor centralillinois: "It's highly unlikely that we'll turn a wheel an hour south of Chicago until May. We had 2 inches of rain last week, and we'll be lucky to avoid 3 inches this week. The ground took the water easily but it's starting to pond. The sun looks scarce for the next 10 days. We'll sweep a couple bins and grease the planters this week."

So, has all of the recent rainfall put enough of a dent in the drought to call it "over?" Though much of the Corn Belt shows drought conditions have ended, there's still a moisture shortfall from Iowa westward. And, at least for Iowa, it's still a big one, according to Monday's daily feature from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM).

"Our recent stretch of wet weather has helped to put a dent in the drought situation in the state, but the long-term deficits remain rather large," according to IEM on Monday. "It is going to take much more rain to catch up the long-term deficit, but we are about to enter a conflicting period of wishing for rain and at the same time wishing for dry weather so that crops can be planted."


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