The start to planting in 2018 has been slow. Extended winter-like patterns put a blanket of snow on fields as recent as mid-May, which added to the pressure of farmers anxious to plant.
While only 5 percent of the nation’s corn crop is sitting in the field, the tough, long winter is giving way to signs of spring. U.S. Department of Agriculture Meteorologist Brad Rippey says that changing weather pattern is allowing more favorable conditions for planting.
“The good news from an agricultural standpoint is that this weather pattern is starting to breakdown a little bit,” said Rippey. “We’re starting to see the snow melt across the North and we’re getting a few warm days mixed in from time to time. As we head into the last of April and early May, it looks like somewhat favorable conditions.”
Rippey says that’s evident in the amount of field work already being done this week. He says it’s been an active week for getting in the field, and work is starting for farmers as far north as the northern Plains.
Looking ahead, Rippey says there are a couple patterns starting to change, indicating how the spring and summer weather could shape up in the next couple months.
“La Nina is starting to lose its grip on North American weather patterns,” said Rippey. “That’s been one of the players responsible for the very cold late winter and spring across the northern Plains and upper Midwest”
Rippey says as La Nina fades, that should allow more typical weather to take its place, which means the frigid temperatures will be replaced with milder weather.
“The eastern Corn Belt may stay a little bit on the wet side,” said Rippey. “We’ve got some significant soil moisture surplus across that region, stretching all the way from Kentucky and Tennessee into Ohio and Michigan. Those areas may be a little slower to dry out as we head into late spring, especially if spring rains continue, which is expected.”
Rippey forecasts planting weather to be more favorable for the western Corn Belt, epecially in Iowa and Missouri. However, one development he’s watching closely is dryness creeping into northern Missouri and southern Iowa.
It’s too early to accurately project what the weather could have in store for June and July, but he says the broad outlook from the National Weather Service (NWS) does hint at a couple major factors in growing conditions this year. The first is a summer that shouldn’t be extremely hot for the majority of the Midwest.
“We’re coming off a very cold, late winter and it does look like there may be a bit of a protective trough of low pressure that could continue to influence weather patterns into June and July,” said Rippey. “That would lead to any heat wave being fairly brief and short-lived. And we might get a hot day here or there, but there should be a steady diet of cold fronts that would knock down that heat fairly quickly.”
Rippey says it’s that pattern that leads him to believe the majority of the Corn Belt won’t see prolonged periods of heat.
“That does bode well for keeping the heat stress out of the heart of the Corn Belt, the Soybean Belt,” he said.
Those doses of weather could also supply steady cold fronts, which means the Corn Belt may also see consistent rains as the key growing season draws near.