May 25, 2009

Eastern Corn Belt farmers could get back in fields as rain holds off

Farmers in the eastern Corn Belt could get back in the fields this weekend as rains hold off until early next week, when a slow-moving system will drop muggy weather on the area, meteorologist said Friday (May 22).


Light showers through Sunday won't affect planting much, but rainfall could begin Sunday night, said Mike Tannura, meteorologist and commodity analyst for T-Storm Weather. "It's not a question of if it rains Sunday night, Monday morning and early next week, but when it will start," he said.


The highest rainfall probability will be across all of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Arkansas, Tannura said. A mix of showers, thunderstorms, some sun and some clouds will create a muggy, cloudy and wet period that will move slowly over a wide expanse.


Persistent rains in the eastern Corn Belt have hampered farmers as they try to get corn in the ground. As of Monday, the US Department of Agriculture said only 62 percent of corn was planted as of May 18, versus 85 percent at this time. That average was dragged down by slow progress in places like Illinois, where only 20 percent of the crop was planted versus 92 percent on average. The story was similar in Indiana with 24 percent seeded compared to 83 percent on average. In Ohio 39 percent was in the ground while the five-year average is 82 percent. Analysts expect on Tuesday USDA will say in its crop progress report that farmers will have seeded between 77 percent to 80 percent of the nation's corn crop.


Standing water will probably not be an issue with dry conditions and hotter temperatures across most of the region the past few days, he said, but some areas could still be wet, forcing producers in these areas to decide whether to plant this weekend.


"If you plant quickly and the soil is wet, then you have compacted soil," Tannura said. "But if you wait until it dries properly, you roll the dice again because it will rain again next week."


Rain is also expected in the western Corn Belt, giving moisture to some areas that have had noticeably lower precipitation levels, including northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, said Tony Espinola, senior meteorologist for WSI. A storm system moving across the Dakotas and central Minnesota from Sunday to Monday could bring heavy rains to spring wheat areas in the far western Corn Belt, with some areas receiving between one to two inches, he said.


Overall, areas with most rainfall will be the Delta region, the Dakotas, and across the eastern corn belt.