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Weather Starter: Temps Low, Fieldwork Slow

Jeff Caldwell 04/28/2014 @ 11:31am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

It's wet out there in a lot of places where the planters are ready to roll. Those planter wheels likely won't see an inch of turning in the field, at least to start this week, forecasters and farmers say. Though the rain has delayed planting, it remains a welcome sight in some parts of the nation's center that remain lagging in total moisture accumulation.

Rainfall over the weekend was heaviest in parts of eastern Kansas, Missouri, and southern parts of Iowa and Illinois. The mid-South and Delta got a lot of rain, too; a line between Arkansas and Missouri saw up to 5 inches, rain that followed along with severe storms and tornadoes.

"The heaviest rain shifts into the southeast Midwest and eastern Delta in the next day or so," according to Monday's Ag QUICKsheet from Commodity Weather Group (CWG). "Lingering scattered showers and cool temperatures will then occur through Thursday in the Midwest, but activity will become much less organized."

The rain is falling where it's not as needed, and seemingly steering completely clear of the areas where it is, adds MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.

"Rains increased across the northwestern and eastern Plains this past weekend, which improved moisture a bit for winter wheat. However, dryness persisted in the west-central and southwestern Plains, where stress remained significant for wheat growth," he said Monday morning. "Also, the rains in northwestern and eastern areas were not heavy enough to end drought conditions. Some additional minor improvements are expected in Nebraska early this week, but dryness will continue in the southwestern areas."

Some weather-watchers say a planting window could possibly open up later this week, but it might not offer much in the way of major progress, as things will likely turn wet again in the coming weekend and beyond. And, that progress will be spotty at best, according to CWG, until next week when things could resume in earnest over a larger geography.

"Lingering scattered showers and cool temperatures will occur through Thursday in the Midwest, but activity will become much less organized," CWG's Monday report shows. "A weak system does drop through the northern Midwest next Sunday/Monday, followed by another dipping into the southern Corn Belt at the middle of next week. However, broader Corn Belt coverage will likely hold off until an 11- to 15-day event.

"The rains will delay corn seeding, although the current system may fall just short of original expectations for intensity of rainfall in the Midwest. Some planting progress should manage to occur in between showers in many spots next week."

Adds Keeney: "Limited planting will likely resume in the southern Midwest and Delta later this week as rains begin to ease there. Additional showers in the northern Midwest combined with cool temperatures will keep soil temperatures a bit low and fieldwork a bit slow."

Expectations for planting progress range widely in the Midwest. While Agriculture.com Marketing Talk senior contributor Wind says planting progress in his area of central Iowa may be up to 70% after a week of mostly dry conditions last week, others say a total repeat of last spring is already in the cards.

"For the next week, it looks like planters will remain in the shed over much of the Corn Belt. If it's not too wet, then it's still too cold. There are a few fields planted here on the lighter soils and the hillsides, although snow can still be found in mounds and in shaded ditch and wooded areas," says Marketing Talk adviser jennys_mn. "What a crappy week of weather we have coming up. I'm going to be helping my relation in Evansville, Wisconsin, and usually by now, he had something in. This year, has only done some initial tillage."

Planting is variable in parts of the eastern Corn Belt so far, and on the opposite side of the nation's center, in southwest Kansas, the opposite problem is keeping progress slow.

"A terrible weak of hot southwest winds," says Marketing Talk senior adviser sw363535. "Wind is slowing planting locally. You tend to stop and park it when the seed beats you to the end of the field!"

And, though the rally's not been the sharpest in the world to start the week off, some say the market could start watching closely. That may not be the best thing in the world for some farmers.

"And I know -- 'Jen, we're not late . . . yet.' And don't bet against the American farmer. Look how well last year turned out. Yeah, we'll be OK. But that was still last year. This is this year. And I think we are going to have to see more weather premium built into these markets," jennys_mn says. "Looks to me like another year of mudded in crops in the north, but I think this year the south joins the poor crop with just too much heat, too little rain. But, don't worry, be happy. Instead of an orderly climb in the futures, we get to look forward to the 'Take No Prisoners' market. I'd be in no hurry to sell here. Looks like most of you guys have time for a quick trip before the planting season gets going. The southwestern U.S. has been nice -- maybe a trip to Vegas for all you gambling types out there. But, as farmers, you're all gamblers, it's just that the crop insurance has made most farmers 'the house.'"

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