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Weather Outlook: Soil Is Warming Up Early

If there’s one thing meteorologists Dan Hicks and Dale Mohler agree on, it’s the fact that soil is warming up early this year, but it still needs a little time to dry out. However, growers can rest easy knowing soil won’t be pounded with heavy rains as El Niño quickly fades. 

“Soil temperatures will be higher this year going into the planting season,” says Dale Mohler, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. “There’ll be no need to wait for the soil to warm up, just waiting for the soil to dry out.”

After a fairly wet winter season, farmers in the western Corn Belt are seeing above-average moisture levels in the top 4 to 5 feet of soil in their fields, according to Freese-Notis Weather meteorologist Dan Hicks. He isn’t expecting heavy rains, but he believes near- to above-normal precipitation will hit the Midwest in the next 4 to 6 weeks. 

“The pace of early fieldwork and planting could be slower than normal as fields may be slower to dry after rains occur, but I don’t see major or lengthy delays in most areas into April,” Hicks says.

In the eastern Corn Belt, Mohler is seeing a different trend as spring continues. Eastward from Chicago, dryness may be noticeable. “We expect that the spring will not be overly wet,” Mohler says. “If anything, it might be sort of biased toward the dry side.”

Mohler predicts that drier weather should kick in during late April or early May. 

A spring different from springs past
Based on the last two years, Mohler understands why growers get nervous when they start seeing rainy weather at this point before planting. However, take heart in the fact that moisture hitting topsoil is able to percolate down this year since the soil is already thawed.

“It should be better than last year because I don’t expect the same wet weather that we saw last year,” says Mohler. “This year should be a drier spring overall.”

Overall, warmer temperatures than typical for spring are forecast across the Corn Belt, but Hicks does have a hunch that some cooler weather may set in. He believes we may see a period of cooler-than-normal weather in April and into May. 

Looking to summer and fall
This summer might be a hot one, although forecasts are still uncertain. AccuWeather is anticipating temperatures over 100ºF. across what could be 80% of the Corn Belt.

“The one thing we’re confident about is there will be some heat this summer,” Mohler says. “We’re concerned about not getting enough rain.”

Growers can expect that heat in the first half of summer, specifically mid- to late June or early July.

Looking even further, a La Niña system could move in during the fall. The Climate Prediction Center is saying there’s about a 50% chance of this occurring. If La Niña does end up developing, it could stay weak and not affect weather patterns at all. 

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