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Weather Starter: Corn Planting Window Flying Open

Jeff Caldwell 05/05/2014 @ 8:54am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

After a week of what in spots felt more like March, the first full week of May will likely see a lot of planting and other fieldwork throughout the nation's center, allowing farmers a lot of catch-up time in what's started out as a virtual repeat of the slow, wet, cool planting season of 2013.

The weekend saw many farmers already beginning to make up for lost time, though conditions are far from perfect in many spots where wheels started turning.

"Planted one field of 188 acres that had been worked about two weeks ago -- It did go in pretty, but maybe would have been better to wait one more day," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk veteran adviser ECIN, who farms in east-central Indiana. "But here's our problem: The ground is still cool. I need to check the temperature again this morning, but it's not likely to be warmer."

Marketing Talk senior contributor crophugger agrees: "Planted a little here over the weekend. Soil temp was 42, still with frost in the ground. Pulled a few posts in a grassy line...lots of frost."

Despite some recent unseasonably cool temperatures -- some dipping down into frost territory in parts of the central Plains -- there has been largely limited rainfall in the Corn Belt, meaning an expected warmup will allow at least a roaring start to the week, planting progress-wise, says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney. That may not last all week, though.

"Limited rains in the central and southern Midwest and Delta through midweek will allow remaining corn and soybean planting to progress well. However, showers in the northern Midwest will slow planting there. Also, rains should return to the central and southern Midwest and Delta later this week, which will stall fieldwork there again," Keeney says. "Temperatures should remain warm through midweek, but should begin to cool a bit later this week."

Specifically, moisture will return to the Midwest starting Thursday, with more widespread rainfall chances into Friday, according to Monday's Commodity Weather Group (CWG) Ag QUICKsheet. But, for the most part, that may be the only planting interruption for the next couple of weeks.

"Continued warming occurs this week in the Corn Belt, peaking in the 80s for all but the northwest corner of the belt at midweek," according to CWG. "Showers do begin to return to the northwest Midwest on Wednesday and scatter across the west on Thursday, heading through the South Friday. However, good seeding progress occurs in the meantime, particularly south of I-80. Shower delays then appear most frequent in the southern/western Corn Belt for the balance of the 15-day period, although amounts do not appear excessive and breaks of about three days are possible in between each event."

What does this mean for corn planting progress? With more than 60% of farmers responding to a recent Agriculture.com poll saying they've yet to start planting corn, the planting window opening will be a welcome sight. Look for Monday's USDA Crop Progress report to show a continued lag in progress, but those numbers will likely see a major boost in next week's numbers, says Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc.

"Ahead of today's Weekly Crop Progress Report, I would expect below-normal planting progress through the first five days of May. The normal weekly increase in planting through May 5 is 16%, and based on last week's weather, I would expect a number closer to 10%. This would bring national planting up to 29%, below the average but still well ahead of 2013's 12%," he says. "Across the Corn Belt, above-normal temperatures and increasing humidity will stream into the region on strengthening southerly winds. Planting and fieldwork should progress significantly into Wednesday, with much of the region also expected to be dry Thursday, with the exception of Western areas. Big planting gains are certainly a possibility ahead of next Monday's report."

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