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Midwest Farmers Want Sunshine, Southwest Needs Showers

It looks like there will be a few more stops and starts to planting activity across the Corn Belt as spring continues. More showers and storm activity across the Midwest is expected to slow planting progress over the coming weeks, says meteorologist Joel Widenor of Commodity Weather.

“Across the heart of the Corn Belt by no means is it going to be raining every day, but the breaks that we get in between these rain events over the next couple of weeks are only going to be about one to three days in duration,” Widenor explains.

Those short dry spells will limit the opportunities farmers have to get in the field to finish planting or start spraying.

“That will mean we'll be back in a relatively slower mode in some of those spots,” he says.

No More Rain, Please

That is especially troubling in states like North Dakota and Minnesota where famers are already considerably behind the 5-year average planting pace. The latest USDA Crop Progress report shows corn planting in Minnesota is 23% behind where farmers were at this point last year, and even that was short of average by 12%.

Wanda Patsche farms corn and soybeans with her family near Welcome, Minnesota. She says they’ve only been able to plant one day this spring, and the outlook isn’t good with 2-in. of rain forecasted for her area on Friday. Her farm has less than 15% of their crops planted, and many in her area are in the same boat she says. Farmers in her neighborhood are nervous and discouraged.

At best, Patsche expects to be in the field by mid to later next week. “And even with that we will have wet spots we will probably have to leave,” she says.

In the meantime, their planting plan needs revising. The Patsches are weighing decisions to plant more soybeans and change their herbicide plans.

“It’s discouraging because when you switch out corn numbers based on maturity, you take a yield hit before seed one is planted,” she explains.

However, for Midwest farmers who are done planting the expected precipitation may be good news. “The rains will favor corn, soybean, and spring wheat early growth but will slow planting a bit,” says Radiant Solutions meteorologist Kyle Tapley.

Along the Mississippi river minor flooding may continue in low lying land in Iowa and Illinois, but is not expected to become extreme. “As far as seeing something more widespread, I’m not really seeing a strong sign of that right now,” says Widenor.

Rain Welcome in Some States

In the much of the Plains that rain will be welcomed. As of May 8, 2018 the United States Drought Monitor reported 44.44% of the continental U.S. is abnormally dry or worse.

That is an improvement from this year’s high of 67.1%, but Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah continue to suffer from exceptional drought in some regions. All but one county in Kansas and over half the state of Oklahoma is experiencing some level of water stress.

“This week’s storm activity led to targeted improvements in drought-related conditions in portions of Texas, Kansas, Iowa, and Florida while conditions deteriorated in parts of the Desert Southwest, northern Plains, and the Midwest,” says this week’s Drought Monitor summary.


Overnight beneficial rains fell in central Kansas, and more may be in the forecast, Widenor reports.

“I think we'll get some additional opportunities in northern and eastern Kansas over the next couple of weeks, mainly out in 6 to 15-day period, but not so much with the activity here through early next week. It's really a kind of middle of next week onwards if they get some additional opportunities there,” he says.

Tapley says that rains expected in West Texas over the next 30-60 days may improve soil moisture for the cotton crop, but it may not be enough to relieve current drought conditions.

Despite some potential for rain, Widenor says overall the drought conditions in the Southwest will likely persist.

30-60 Day Outlook

Radiant Solutions recently published a report with weather predictions for the first part of June through the first part of July.

Overall temperatures are expected to trend slightly warmer than normal across the Southeast and Prairies over the next 30-60 days. In the same time frame, the central and southern Plains and southern Midwest are expected to be trending slightly wetter, according to Tapley.

He is also predicting a slightly drier trend in the southern Delta. Dryness will continue to stress spring wheat and canola in the western Prairies the Radiant Solutions report says.

South America

In the last week, dry weather prevailed in much of the safrinha corn belt, says Tapley. Soil moisture continued to drop causing an increase in crop stress. Conditions are most severe in southern parts of Brazil including Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Sao Paulo.

“Warm and dry weather will continue across most of the belt through early next week, maintaining stress on the safrinha corn crop, but showers are still expected to increase later next week across southern and western areas, which should lead to some improvements,” Tapley explains.

Further south in Argentina, rainy weather has continued. Northern Cordoba, northern Santa Fe, and northern Entre Rios have experienced the heaviest precipitation according to Tapley. The excess moisture will continue increased disease risk, particularly for the country’s soybean crop.

Soybean harvest may get back on track as dry weather is expected through the weekend. Only light showers are expected next week.                       

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