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Cold and rain set planting off to a slow start, but give moisture to some drought areas

It’s planting time across the Midwest Corn Belt and farmers are getting anxious. So far, cool temps and frequent rains have kept planters in the shed, but Dale Mohler, senior commodity forecaster for AccuWeather, says better planting days are coming – eventually.

“There are places with stretches of planting taking place, especially in the southern states in the Midwest region,” says Mohler. “While the east has seen frequent rains, the southwest is a little dryer. In western Kansas, where it’s too dry, they’re just hoping the wheat survives.”

According to the USDA Crop Progress Report, 4% of the corn across the region has been planted, slightly below the average of 6%.

Farmers should inch closer to their goal later next week, though Mohler says there is mixed news.

Some areas saw rain Wednesday and Thursday. That’s good news for those looking at the looming drought map and still hoping for more preplanting rains to carry them through the growing season. It’s not so good for those itching to get in the field.

Following the rain, a cold weekend will shift to the east and trigger showers and thunderstorms in some spots.

“Despite the frequent rains, temperatures will be up a bit and the southern sections will see some planting between the rain drops,” says Mohler.

The next week’s forecast shows an early front in the eastern part of the Corn Belt followed by four to five days of dry weather. But it will stay cool in the northern parts, keeping soil temps below that magic 50°F. mark.

May planting prospects

The forecast for May looks more promising for planting.

Temps should be above normal south of a line from southern Oregon, through South Dakota, and dipping into central Indiana and Ohio and into Pennsylvania.

North of that line, temps should be normal to slightly below normal.

Precipitation will range from above average in the eastern one-third of the Corn Belt to below average in Nebraska and Kansas.

“The area affected by the wet spring will shrink in May, enabling farmers to make up any planting time lost to early season conditions,” says Mohler.

The unseasonably cold temps and significant precipitation of late March and early April may soon be a memory as weather patterns likely follow the Farmers’ Almanac prediction of a slow warm-up.

Farmers are holding out hope, claiming three straight days of 70°F. sunny weather will set planters rolling.

Terri Queck-Matzie lives in Greenfield, Iowa, where she has turned her nearly 25 years of experience in print and radio journalism into a successful freelance career. Terri grew up on the family farm and has spent her life in the midst of crop and livestock production.

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