Drought conditions remain stagnant as planting moves ahead
Despite a week or so of rain delays, Kelly Garrett wrapped up planting on Monday, May 23. He is about 10 days behind his normal planting schedule.
“When it comes to planting, I have a different perspective,” says Garrett, a corn, soybean, and winter wheat farmer in Arion, Iowa. “The easiest way to make soybeans yield more is to plant them sooner. The easiest way to make corn yield more is to plant it later. In our area, the warmer the soil the faster and more even emergence you will get out of corn.”
Iowa’s drought saw no change this week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Only three counties are classified as severe drought – Woodbury, Monona, and Plymouth – accounting for just over 2% of the state. Moderate conditions are reported in 6% of the state, primarily in western counties. Overall, 32% of Iowa reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.
While Garrett says Arion has received around eight inches of rain since the beginning of the planting season, he has only had to work around three inches.
A majority of Iowa reported no precipitation this past week. The center of the state, Story County, reported the most precipitation, with just over two inches. Three counties in the southwest corner – Monona, Harrison, and Pottawattamie – also reported just under two inches.
Now that his more than 7,000 acres are planted, Garrett says his concern has shifted to the long-range forecast.
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“I understand the forecast is not always 100% reliable. The forecast for June and July is that it is going to be very hot, and we are looking at maybe 50% of the rainfall we normally get,” Garrett says. “I don't think our subsoil moisture is at capacity. August is supposed to be cool and rainy, but it's a long time until August.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says Iowa’s conditions this past week helped aid farmers’ progress in the fields, and conditions in the coming week look promising.
“With near-normal conditions across Iowa last week, farmers continued to make strong planting progress while dodging scattered showers and thunderstorms. Given this favorable weather pattern, corn planting is nearing completion,” Secretary Naig says.
With five days suitable for planting last week, corn planted jumped to 86% from 57%.
According to the Crop Progress report released on May 23, Iowa topsoil moisture levels were rated 3% very short, 17% short, 76% adequate, and 4% surplus. Iowa subsoil moisture levels were rated 5% very short, 22% short, 69% adequate, and 4% surplus.
Below are what other states across the Corn Belt are experiencing.
Illinois reported an increase in drought acreage this week. Abnormally dry conditions span the top two tiers of northern counties, and have expanded to two counties in the south – Gallatin and Hardin. Overall, 9% of Illinois reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.
The southeastern counties saw the most precipitation this week. Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, and St. Clair counties reported just under three inches of rain. Areas in the northern half of the state reported less than an inch, and the rest of the state averaged about two inches.
Illinois farmers could get into the field for about four days last week. The state matched the five-year average of 78% planted.
The most recent Crop Progress Report had topsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 7% short, 70% adequate, and 23% surplus for Illinois. Illinois subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 6% short, 74% adequate, and 20% surplus.
For the first time since October 5 of last year, Indiana reported abnormally dry conditions in seven southern counties. Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick, Spencer, Harrison, Floyd, and Clark counties experienced dry conditions, accounting for just under 2% of the state.
Most of the state received about an inch of precipitation. Green, Daviess, Martin, and Lawrence counties received the most precipitation in the south, averaging just over four inches.
Indiana reported four days suitable for fieldwork. USDA says 64% of the state’s corn has been planted. The five-year average at this point is 68%.
The Crop Progress Report indicated Indiana topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 3% short, 71% adequate, and 26% surplus. Indiana subsoil levels were rated 1% very short, 4% short, 73% adequate, and 22% surplus.
Drought intensity for the state decreased this week. The severe conditions on the eastern side of the state reduced, accounting for 18% of Kansas. About 21% of Kansas reports extreme conditions. Just over 71% have abnormally dry conditions or worse.
Kansas was split on precipitation totals this past week. Harper and Sedgewick counties in the southeast reported over four inches of precipitation. The state's western side reported less precipitation, with most counties reporting less than an inch.
With more than five days available to work in the field last week, corn planting matched the five-year average of 76% planted, according to the USDA.
The agency also indicated Kansas topsoil moisture levels were rated 25% very short, 26% short, 45% adequate, and 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 29% very short, 31% short, 38% adequate, and 2% surplus.
Minnesota saw no change in drought conditions last week. Six counties in the south reported abnormally dry conditions, accounting for just 3% of the state.
Compared to last year, Minnesota is in a good place in terms of soil moisture. Jeffrey Strock, a professor at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center at the University of Minnesota, says as long as there isn’t another extended dry period, moisture levels look encouraging.
Most of Minnesota reported an average of half an inch of precipitation. Three counties in the southeastern corner – Winona, Olmstead, and Wabasha – reported about 3 inches, the most of the week.
Producers in Minnesota could get into their fields for three days this week. The USDA reported that 60% of Minnesota corn was planted, up 25% from the previous week. The biggest delays in planting have been due to low soil temperatures in April and early May and recent big rains that have cut across Minnesota.
“Up until a few weeks ago, our average soil temperatures were in the upper 30s to mid-40s,” Strock says. “The minimum threshold for corn and soybean germination is about 50 degrees, though they'd prefer 70 degrees.”
Strock expects the crop progress number to be dramatically higher next week. He has seen farmers, particularly in southern Minnesota, working hard this past week putting beans and corn in the fields.
“Some of the producers are halfway done with beans, but they really got busy on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of last week – ahead of the rain – to try to get the crop in the ground,” Strock says.
According to the Crop Progress Report, Minnesota topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 2% short, 60% adequate, and 38% surplus. Minnesota subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 5% short, 64% adequate, and 31% surplus.
Missouri saw no dry conditions this week. No counties currently report any drought conditions.
The state's northern edge had little to no precipitation. A line of storms down the center of the state resulted in several states reporting around 5 inches. Butler County in the south also reported just under five inches.
USDA reported four days last week suitable for fieldwork with 84% of corn planted, 2% behind the five-year average.
The Crop Progress Report noted Missouri topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 2% short, 80% adequate, and 18% surplus. Missouri subsoil moisture levels were rated as 0% very short, 3% short, 85% adequate, and 12% surplus.
Nebraska reported a slight decrease in drought intensity. Severe conditions reduced by about 1%, now accounting for 39% of counties in the middle of the state. Twelve counties are experiencing extreme conditions, for 7.5% of the state. Just over 98% of Nebraska still has abnormally dry conditions or worse.
There were five days this past week suitable for fieldwork, and about 85% of corn has been planted, according to the latest Crop Progress Report. The state remains 3% behind the 5-year average.
Most of Nebraska reported little to no rain. Fillmore County in the east reported five inches of precipitation, the most in the state. Thurston, Burt, and Cumming counties in the northeast received just under an inch and a half.
Nebraska topsoil moisture levels were rated 12% very short, 31% short, 55% adequate, and 2% surplus, according to the Crop Progress Report. The subsoil levels were rated 19% very short, 40% short, 40% adequate, and 1% surplus.
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.
More than three days were suitable for fieldwork last week. USDA reported that 52% of corn had been planted in the state, 21% more than last week.
The state saw an average of one and three-quarters inches of precipitation last week. On the northern edge, Richland County reported more than five inches, the highest in the state.
Ohio topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 3% short, 61% adequate, and 36% surplus. Ohio subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 3% short, 63% adequate, and 34% surplus.
South Dakota reported no change in drought conditions last week. Twenty-three counties reported severe conditions, which is 19% of South Dakota. 4% of the state is experiencing extreme conditions. Overall, 73% is abnormally dry or worse.
Most of the state received little to no precipitation this past week. No counties reported more than an inch of rain. Brookings, Deuel, and Hamlin counties reported the most precipitation, just over three-quarters of an inch.
USDA noted that the state had five days suitable for fieldwork last week. Those days allowed producers to double their corn planted, with 62% total in the ground.
The May 23 Crop Progress Report showed South Dakota topsoil moisture levels were rated 6% very short, 24% short, 55% adequate, and 15% surplus. South Dakota subsoil moisture levels were rated 8% very short, 29% short, 53% adequate, and 10% surplus.