By Keith Robinson, Purdue University
Frequent and heavy rains have kept most Indiana farmers out of their fields during corn planting season so far this month, and the weather outlook for the next two weeks portends continued wet conditions.
But that doesn’t mean yields at harvest time are in danger of dropping off yet.
Forecasters expect precipitation to be above normal through the first week of May, following a pattern of rain that has swelled rivers and streams and flooded fields.
"The rain over the next couple of weeks shouldn't be as heavy as it has been, but the frequency of rewetting of topsoils is the problem," said associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa, based at Purdue University.
As of the week ending April 21, farmers had planted just 1% of the state's corn crop, compared with the five-year average of 16% by the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. Last year, when an unusually dry spring was a precursor to drought, farmers had 43% of the crop in the ground by this time.
Heavy rains and cool temperatures prevented most fieldwork last week, when some areas received nearly 7 inches of rain and temperatures dropped to 21 degrees.
Temperatures finally are warming, a trend that typically would help to dry out fields so farmers could work in them. But more rain would negate that effect.
"We're in a wet pattern that isn’t going to change in the immediate future," Scheeringa said.
State climatologist Dev Niyogi earlier this year had said planting could be delayed because of a wetter-than-normal trend and that Indiana could be in for some drying in the growing season, leading to a return to mild to moderate drought conditions across the state. He said that possibility has not changed.
"We don’t have a dominant El Niño or La Niña this year, so the patterns we are seeing from wet to dry could become the highlight of the growing season," Niyogi said.