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Corn Belt Farmers Search for Planting Window

Precipitation expected to continue for another two weeks, forecasters say.

Corn and soybean planting that’s already behind the normal pace for this time of year likely will be delayed further as rainfall is expected to continue for at least the next 10 to 15 days in much of the Corn Belt.

As much as six times the normal amount of rain has fallen in parts of the Midwest and southern Plains in the past 30 days, according to the National Weather Service. Almost all of Kansas, the northern half of Oklahoma, and parts of Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas have all received unusual amounts of precipitation.

Farmers will receive little reprieve from the rain, says Paul Markert, a senior meteorologist with Maxar.

“Through day 10 the answer is no,” he told Agriculture.com. “Maybe in the 11- to 15-day period there could be some improvement for a drier trend.”

Producers are already behind the eight ball in terms of planting because of the rain. The U.S. corn crop was 49% planted as of Sunday, well behind the prior five-year average of 80%, the Department of Agriculture said in a report this week.

In Iowa, 70% was in the ground, while in Illinois only 24% was planted, behind the normal 89% for this time of year, the USDA said. Only 14% of the Indiana crop was seeded, behind the average of 73%.

About 19% of U.S. corn had emerged from the ground, behind the average of 49%.

Soybean planting also is suffering from the precipitation with 5% planted at the start of this week, behind the average of 17%, according to government data.

In Iowa, 3% was in the ground vs. the usual 13%, and in Illinois 2% was planted compared with the average of 23%. Indiana growers only had 1% seeded, well behind the average of 16%. Only one state – North Carolina – was ahead of the normal pace, the USDA said.

While it hasn’t been as dry in the northern Plains, spring wheat seeding also is behind at 70% compared with the usual 80%. In North Dakota, the biggest grower of the variety, 66% was in the ground vs. the normal 74%.

About 26% of the crop had emerged as of Sunday, down from the average of 51%.

Storms are expected in parts of the Midwest including western Nebraska and western South Dakota this weekend, where snow fell earlier this week, according to Commodity Weather Group.

The central and southwestern Midwest are at the highest risk of flooding in the next two weeks, and seeding opportunities are limited in most of the Corn Belt, the forecaster said.

“The best chance for a notable drier break (is) in North Dakota, northern South Dakota, and Minnesota from Monday into” the 11- to 15-day forecast, which could aid seeding, CWG said in a report.

Winter wheat also is at risk from rainy weather. While this is usually the time of year the plants need precipitation, it’s been excessive this year. The heaviest rain in the area is forecast for this weekend, but an active weather pattern is seen into the six- to 15-day outlook, the company said.

Maxar’s Markert said the problem is there’s a ridge sitting over the eastern U.S. that’s keeping the wet weather mostly in place. Precipitation coming out of the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico is making its way north instead of east, he said.

“On the outer edge of that ridge is where you have that rain,” he said. “You can see these patterns happening in May, and they tend to lock down. So until this ridge moves or dissipates, I don’t see much changing.”

While there could be a drier pattern on the way, it isn’t likely for another two weeks, Markert said.

“The 11- to 15-day, in the latter half, there could be some breakdown in this ridge, some models are showing that,” he said. “Even though the front end looks wet, there are some changes perhaps in the upper levels. The confidence is low during that period, but it’s something to keep an eye out for.”

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