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Dry, Warmer Weather Through Next Week May Allow Planting to Begin

Rising Temperatures Expected to Melt Snow Into Next Week.

The system that dumped several inches of snow has finally moved out of the central and northern Midwest, but whether the weather will hold long enough for growers to get planters running is at the fore of farmers’ minds.

Joel Widenor, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group in Washington, told Agriculture.com that a warmup is indeed on the way, and it should remain dry enough to allow the ground to dry sufficiently to give many producers at least a shot of getting into the fields late next week.

“For the Northern Plains, we’re going to see a couple of warmer days over the weekend, and that’s going to get rid of a lot of snow cover,” he said. “If anything does manage to hang on, it’ll be gone by the middle of next week.”

Temperatures in the central Midwest also will be warmer next week, which should get rid of most of the snow in the region. Areas that received snow this week – mostly along the border between Iowa and Minnesota – likely will see most of it melting off, as sustained warmer temperatures are forecast, Widenor said.

More than a foot of snow reportedly fell in Lime Creek, Iowa, yesterday, and in many parts of the state more than 18 inches have fallen this month. Still, growers have time before they have to be overly concerned about their planting window closing, said Virgil Schmitt, a field agronomist at Iowa State University’s Extension office in Muscatine.

“From a corn-planting standpoint, they’ll want to have that done by the fifth to the eighth of May, so we still have a lot of time to get it done,” he said. “It sounds like the weather is going to warm up considerably next week. So if we don’t get a whole lot of rain, we’re going to be seeing people out in the fields pretty heavy.”

If producers start planting next Thursday or Friday, that still gives them about 10 days of planting, which is more than enough for most farmers to get seeds into the ground.

With modern technology, Schmitt said, many growers can get their entire farms planted in two or three days given good conditions.

“From a statewide standpoint, on a good day we can get more than 10% of our corn planted – in one day,” he said. “We can get a lot done in a hurry, so I don’t think people are that concerned yet. If we go 10 days and still haven’t turned a wheel, then I’ll be nervous.”

Most growers in Iowa aren’t yet considering switching acres from corn to soybeans, though soybeans seem like the more popular choice this year based on calculated returns.

The USDA said at the end of March that producers would plant 88 million acres with corn and 89 million acres with soybeans. That marks the first time in history planting intentions for beans were higher than for corn, but it makes sense from a purely economic standpoint, Schmitt said.

“You don’t have to put nitrogen fertilizer on soybeans and seed costs are a little bit lower,” the agronomist said. “So with that, a lot of people are thinking about the beans a little bit, because profit margins are going to be awful thin – if they exist at all. Once way to improve profits is lessening the input costs.”

Commodity Weather Group’s Widenor said he sees temperatures in the Midwest warming into the 60s and 70s by the middle of next week. Chicago will be in the 60s on its warmest days, St. Louis will be in the 70s, and Minneapolis will probably get into the low 60s, he said.

As for rain, he expects it to mostly hold off through at least next week. The Dakotas and parts of western Minnesota are forecast to get some precipitation, but not for another 10 to 14 days, he said. Totals in areas where rain falls will be scant – likely under a half inch.

“It’s not going to be a huge amount,” Widenor said. “After that, it’s going to be fairly quiet for the balance of the 15-day period in northern areas.”

A cooler trend is forecast toward the end of the 11- to 15-day outlook and the 16- to 30-day projection is trending wetter, but confidence isn’t huge in those weather models because they’re so far out, he said.

“It’s going to be driest from the middle of next week through late in the 11- to 15-day” outlook, he said. “After that, it may go back in the cooler and wetter direction.”

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