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Sun's Out, Seed's Out

Mostly dry weather in Corn Belt will allow producers to speed crop seeding.

Gas up your planters, folks, it’s going to be dry for most of this week.

Producers will get some relief after months of endless rainfall that’s put planting well behind the average pace, weather forecasters told Agriculture.com.

As much as six times the normal amount of precipitation has fallen in the past 30 days from Montana to the Gulf Coast, according to the National Weather Service. The Missouri and Mississippi rivers are both flooded, as are dozens of smaller rivers throughout the U.S., leaving some prime farmland unplanted.

Corn planting was 67% finished as of June 2, well behind the prior five-year average of 96% for this time of year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Soybeans were 39% planted, just under half the normal pace, the agency said.

“At this point we’re normally looking for rain because the crop is 95% in the ground right now … and we’re normally almost completed with soybeans as well,” said Dale Mohler, a senior meteorologist who specializes in commodity weather forecasting for Accuweather.com. This week’s precipitation “will be closer to a normal pattern rainfall-wise.”

In the week that ended on June 2, Iowa farmers had only 1.3 days that were suitable for fieldwork, the fewest in the country, while Illinois growers had two days, the USDA said. Dry weather is expected through most of this week, though isolated thunderstorms are forecast in parts of the central Midwest, according to the National Weather Service.

Growers in parts of Nebraska, the Dakotas, southern Iowa, and most of Illinois should be able to get into their fields this week, though ideally they’d be able to wait 10 days to two weeks for soils to dry, Commodity Weather Group said in a report on Monday. That’s not the case this year.

At this point, some farmers are planting in nonoptimal soil conditions due to the rainfall.

Scattered showers may fall around the Great Lakes Tuesday through Thursday with “more notable weekend rains” in the southern and eastern Midwest, CWG said.

“The best late corn/soy seeding this week (will be in the) central and southwestern Midwest,” the forecaster said. Next week growers in the northwestern Corn Belt will have dry weather to plant.

Mohler said there’ll be three rain systems in the next two weeks, which is fairly normal. That compares with the five or six rain events the Corn Belt has been seeing in two-week periods in recent months, he said.

One issue that growers may face is cooler-than-normal weather in the next few weeks, which could lead to slower field drying, Mohler said. While he expects the summer growing season to be warm, any cool weather could slow crop growth and push back the harvest.

Mohler said he expects “pretty good” growing conditions this summer, but the nonstop precipitation this spring has left little room for error through the rest of the growing season.

“If it’s warmer, the moisture will evaporate more quickly, but that’s a minor concern,” he said. “You don’t want this summer to be a cool one because we’re getting the crops in so late. You don’t want them lagging behind or you run the risk of freeze damage in the fall.”

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