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Corn Belt sees improving drought conditions thanks to precipitation

Over the past few weeks, Dave Vipond has seen nearly 8 inches of rain soak his Mahnomen County, Minnesota soil. Vipond, a soybean and kidney bean farmer, says even if his area sees no more rain, it will be at least 10 days before he can plant because of standing water in the fields.

“In my area, I’ve seen probably two or three fields on some of the higher ground that were worked,” Vipond says. “I haven’t seen any that were planted.”

Mahnomen County in northwest Minnesota reported just under 1.5 inches this week, and Vipond says another system is on its way to the state. Counties on the western edge received the most rain, reporting over 2.5 inches in some areas. In the northeast corner, Cook County reported about 0.25 inch.

Vipond says last year, Minnesota was in drought conditions, with more than 37% of the state abnormally dry or worse. 

“This is just Mother Nature’s way,” Vipond says. “It’d be pretty unusual for us to have two droughts in a row. We expected to get rain this year; we just didn’t expect to get this much.”

Map of drought conditions for Minnesota for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Fewer acres in Minnesota reported drought conditions this week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Four counties in the southeastern corner that reported dry conditions now report none. No counties report any conditions worse than abnormally dry, accounting for just 4% of the state.

Despite being unable to get into the fields, Vipond says he isn’t worried yet. Typically, half of his crop is planted into dry edible beans, which can be planted as late as the first week of June without issue. Some of his crops, like corn, are usually in by May 25 at the latest, but he can stretch that to June 1.

“If the weather turned around and we were able to get in the field toward the end of May, I think we could plant most of our acres, if not all,” Vipond says. “With current prices, we would be all right if we get pushed out into June.”

Vipond also works in crop insurance and says prevented planting is a hot topic in Minnesota. Producers unfamiliar with the program have asked him many questions.

“For example, they want to know what they would get per acre if they did prevented planting vs. planting the crop,” Vipond says. “It’s likely we will see some prevented planting acres, but hopefully it’s not too many.”

Producers in Minnesota could get into their fields for two days this week. Due to constant storm systems, standing water in the fields has prevented most farmers from using those working days. The USDA reported that 9% of Minnesota corn was planted, trailing the 48% average for this time of year.

Minnesota topsoil moisture levels were rated 1% very short, 4% short, 69% adequate, and 26% surplus, according to the May 9 Crop Progress Report. Minnesota subsoil moisture levels were rated 2% very short, 13% short, 69% adequate, and 16% surplus.

Here is what other states across the Corn Belt are experiencing.

NEBRASKA

Map of drought conditions for Nebraska for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Central Nebraska reported less intense conditions this week. Just over 5% of the state reported extreme drought conditions. About 42% of the state reported severe conditions, a 7% improvement from last week. Just over 98% of Nebraska still reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

According to the Crop Progress Report, the state had about only two days this week suitable for fieldwork. Nebraska farmers have planted about 39% of their corn, according to the USDA. The state got headway on last week’s planting but remains behind the five-year average of 57%.
 
Most of Nebraska reported around 1 inch of rain. York, Seward, Fillmore, and Polk counties received up to 4.9 inches last week, the most reported in the state. A few counties received less than average, with parts of Cherry, Hooker, Box Butte, and Sioux counties reporting less than 0.25 inch.

Nebraska topsoil moisture levels were rated 13% very short, 23% short, 62% adequate, and 2% surplus, according to the Crop Progress Report. The subsoil levels were rated 24% very short, 35% short, 40% adequate, and 1% surplus.

IOWA

Map of drought conditions for Iowa for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Brian Pickering, a corn and soybean farmer in Benton County, Iowa, was worried a few weeks ago about not being able to get his crops in the ground before Mother’s Day. 

Thanks to a turn of good weather, Pickering finished planting corn this Wednesday and began soybeans shortly after. In every direction, farmers are in fields, making up for the lost time. 

“I picked up seed corn from my dealer, and people were streaming in to get seed,” Pickering says. “Everybody is finally going. It also means the co-op is being pushed hard right now to apply fertilizer and chemicals.”

Pickering expects Iowa’s corn planting numbers to jump considerably in the upcoming Crop Progress report. Iowa farmers had 14% of their corn in the ground last week. A lack of suitable planting days – just two last week – has kept progress far behind the state’s five-year average of 63% planted. 

Iowa’s drought reduced in intensity again this week, thanks to recent precipitation. Only three counties are classified as in severe drought – Woodbury, Monona, and Plymouth – accounting for just over 2% of the state. Abnormally dry acreage shrank to 26% of the state, primarily in western counties. Overall, 32% of Iowa reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

Iowa reported a fairly consistent amount of rain across the counties, with most of the state reporting around 1 inch of rain. Counties in the state’s center reported more precipitation, hovering closer to 2.5 or 3 inches. 

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says the improved weather conditions have given farmers the break they needed to push ahead with planting.

“A noticeable shift in the cool and wet weather pattern appears to have given farmers a much-needed window for planting this week,” says Secretary Naig. “In the days ahead, unseasonably hot temperatures and isolated chances of thunderstorms should allow farmers to make good progress.”

According to the most recent Crop Progress report, Iowa topsoil moisture levels were rated 1% very short, 9% short, 73% adequate, and 17% surplus. Iowa subsoil moisture levels were rated 4% very short, 19% short, 67% adequate, and 10% surplus.

ILLINOIS

Map of drought conditions for Illinois for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Illinois reported a very slight reduction in drought conditions this week. Abnormally dry conditions account for just over 8.25% of the state, spanning the top two tiers of northern counties.

The southern counties saw the most precipitation this week. Randolph, Monroe, Jersey, and Calhoun counties reported over 2.5 inches of rain. The rest of the state saw well over an inch of precipitation, with Rock Island County reporting just under 1 inch.

Illinois farmers were able to get into the field two days last week. The state is still far behind the 58% five-year average of corn planting. USDA says Illinois corn is just 15% planted.

For Illinois, the most recent ​​Crop Progress Report had topsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 1% short, 49% adequate, and 50% surplus. Illinois subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 2% short, 58% adequate, and 40% surplus.

KANSAS

Map of drought conditions for Nebraska for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Kansas’ drought acreage shrank slightly this week. The exceptional conditions in the southwest corner accounted for 16% of the state. About 28% of the state reports severe conditions, mostly concentrated in the western half of Kansas. Two counties previously in abnormally dry conditions – Crawford and Bourbon – now report none. About 71% of the state reports abnormally dry conditions or worse. 

Kansas was split on precipitation this week. The western half of the state received very little rain, with most counties reporting an average of 0.25 inch. The eastern half of the state reported an average of 2 inches, with totals increasing as they approach the southeastern corner. Montgomery and Chautauqua counties reported the most precipitation, reporting about 7 inches.

The USDA reported only three workable days this week. Increased precipitation this week meant less time in the field. Planting fell further behind the five-year average of 57%, reporting 39% planted.

The report also indicated Kansas topsoil moisture levels were rated 22% very short, 23% short, 47% adequate, and 8% surplus. Kansas subsoil moisture levels were rated 27% very short, 32% short, 38% adequate, and 3% surplus.

MISSOURI

Map of drought conditions for Missouri for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Missouri reported no dry conditions this week. No counties currently report any drought conditions.

The state’s southwestern corner reported the most precipitation this week, with Dade and Cedar counties receiving 7 inches. Most of Missouri reported an average of 3 inches of rain. Atchison County had the least precipitation in the northwest, less than 1 inch. 

USDA reported that one day last week was suitable for fieldwork in Missouri. Heavy rain in the southern half of the state made conditions difficult to plant in. The state reported 32% of its corn planted, about half of its five-year average of 67%.

The Crop Progress Report noted Missouri topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 0% short, 64% adequate, and 36% surplus. Missouri subsoil moisture levels were rated as 0% very short, 3% short, 81% adequate, and 16% surplus.

INDIANA

Map of drought conditions for Indiana for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Indiana remained drought-free this week. The state has had no dry or drought warnings since October 5 of last year.

From May 3 to May 10, most of the state saw about 1.25 inches of precipitation. In the north, Wabash, Huntington, and Adams counties received the most precipitation, averaging 2.75 inches. In the south, Perry County reported less than 0.5 inch, the lowest in the state. 

Indiana reported two days suitable for fieldwork. USDA says only 11% of the state’s corn has been planted. The state’s five-year average at this point in the season is 39%. 

The Crop Progress Report indicated Indiana topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 2% short, 52% adequate, and 46% surplus. Indiana subsoil levels were rated 1% very short, 3% short, 57% adequate, and 39% surplus.

OHIO

Map of drought conditions for Ohio for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Ohio has not reported any drought conditions since the beginning of 2022, and conditions remain unchanged. The state has reported no worse than abnormally dry conditions since January 2020. 

About one day was suitable for fieldwork last week.USDA reported that 5% percent of corn has been planted in the state, only 2% more than last week. 

The state saw an average of nearly 2 inches of precipitation last week. Counties in the middle of the state – Pickaway, Licking, and Jefferson – reported over 3 inches. The state’s northeast corner reported slightly less, with counties averaging just over 1 inch.

Ohio topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 0% short, 40% adequate, and 60% surplus. Ohio subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 0% short, 54% adequate, and 46% surplus.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Map of drought conditions for South Dakota for May 12
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

South Dakota reported a significant intensification in drought conditions this week. Several counties in the center of the state – Ziebach, Haakon, and Jackson – reported extreme conditions, accounting for 3.5% of the state. Overall, 76% of the state is abnormally dry or worse.

USDA reported about four days suitable for fieldwork last week. Those days allowed producers to increase their corn planted by 8%, reporting 11% total in the ground. Producers this year are trailing South Dakota’s five-year average of 32%. 

Hand and Beadle counties in the center of the state reported the most precipitation of the week, at just over 2.5 inches. The rest of the eastern half of the state averaged around 1.25 inches. The western half reported much less precipitation, with totals averaging closer to 0.5 inches. 

The Crop Progress Report showed South Dakota topsoil moisture levels were rated 10% very short, 28% short, 50% adequate, and 12% surplus. South Dakota subsoil moisture levels were rated 13% very short, 34% short, 48% adequate, and 5% surplus.

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