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Corn Belt Farmers Shouldn’t Expect to Plant Early

Although farmers were anxious for #plant17 when February surprised the Midwest with warm weather, planting in the Corn Belt won’t be kicking in early in 2017 — at least according to meteorologist Dale Mohler.

“I think it will be a little bit of a slow start and a bit of a challenge early on, because it will be a little cooler and a little wetter than normal in late March and early April,” Mohler says. 

Soil temperatures are the issue, and those stem from what’s coming weather-wise. 

After this week of snow, Mohler is pretty confident that the Corn Belt will see rain instead of snowfall. “For the rest of March and into early April, I think it’s going to be a little wetter than normal,” Mohler says.

Although it will be wetter, it won’t be warmer than standard years. Temperatures will rise this weekend, but then will settle back down into normal range by the middle of next week. That means daytime temperatures ranging from 55°F. to 60°F. on warmer days and staying in the 40s on cooler ones.

“The last two weeks in March will probably be somewhat wetter than normal, keeping farmers out of the fields and keeping soil temperatures lower,” Mohler says.

When April hits, temperatures will get gradually warmer. Mohler is hopeful that the first week of April may produce only a standard one to two rain events, which may give farmers the opportunity to do some fieldwork during the dry times.

Down South

Mohler thinks the Delta region and Texas have been seeing some very favorable weather recently, although rain has been a factor in the past week.

“It looks almost perfect when you get farther south,” he says. “They’ll get a little less rain than farther north, and it will be warmer than normal down there, in general.”

Because Texas has had beneficial temperatures and conditions recently, some farmers got a nice early start on planting. A quarter of total Texas corn acres are planted already, which is 6% above the state’s five-year average, according to the USDA. Some Texas corn has already emerged.

The USDA recorded little corn planting progress in Arkansas due to rain, although Arkansas Extension agents reported planting-ready soil temperatures and completed fieldwork now waiting for rain-free days.

In Mississippi, 2% of the state’s total corn acres are planted, while many of the remaining fields are muddy from heavy rain, Extension agents say. Luckily, many farmers have planting preparation completed already.

Rainy weather slowed down Louisiana’s corn planting progress this week, although the state did get 10% planted already, according to the USDA and Extension agents.

El Niño

It looks as though El Niño will come into play in 2017. But will it be strong enough for Corn Belt growers to notice? Will it make an impact in fall or summer?

“I’m pretty confident that it will happen, but I’m not as confident that it will be strong enough to impact weather in the U.S.,” says Mohler. “If it affects the Midwest at all, it would mean a little more moisture and cloud cover.”

Mohler also isn’t sure if it will make any difference until fall or even during the winter months. 

Severe Storm Risks

Earlier in 2017, Mohler predicted that severe weather may be more likely this year. Considering the tornadoes, strong winds, and thunderstorms that the Midwest and Corn Belt experienced recently, he’s not wrong, but that prediction still holds true as spring arrives.

The good news is that severe weather isn’t in the forecast for the next couple weeks, as warm temperatures are a key ingredient in the recipe for chaotic weather.

“You need the clash of warm and cold, and right now we’ve just got cold,” Mohler says. “Once it warms up again in early to mid-April, we may see that severe weather.”

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