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Few planting challenges in dry May 2021

Early season dryness helps planting but dryness ahead in growing season a concern.

According to data from WeatherTrends360, May 2021 ended up being the 12th coldest May in more than 30 years and the driest May in five years for the Corn Belt as a whole. As is typical of spring months, temperatures were on a roller-coaster ride as we transitioned from the cold to warm season. Warmer days were interspersed with colder days, however, the last few days of the month featured overwhelmingly colder-than-normal temperatures, including some frost and freezes in the far northern Plains.

Drier conditions in May were favorable for corn planting which, as of May 23, was 90% complete across the 18 main corn-producing states; this is ahead of last year and the five-year average according to the USDA weekly crop progress report. However, dry conditions also meant that drought areas increased during the month. Drought deepened during May in central North Dakota, southwestern Michigan, and northeastern Illinois. In fact, the most intense category of drought, exceptional (D4), cropped up in central North Dakota by the end of May. At this level of drought exceptional and widespread crop losses may occur as well as water shortages in reservoirs, streams, and wells. Indiana, Ohio, and southern Iowa saw improvements in dry conditions, although the drought conditions in the northern half of Iowa remained largely unchanged.


Looking ahead to June 2021, WeatherTrends360 projects that dryness will remain in the northern Plains, generally from North Dakota into Nebraska. Meanwhile, the southern Plains will stay wet with unsettled weather into the eastern United States. Other than the occasional hot spike, Corn Belt temperatures are not expected to be exceptionally hot. However, hotter weather chances will increase in July, which will only act to increase dryness, especially in the northern Plains. This may lead to expanding and deepening drought for this region. Additionally, hot and dry conditions during pollination could cause a decline in crop condition.



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