Tale Of Two Springs

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, this spring is the best of times in the central Corn Belt area, it is the worst of — well, more like not so good — times for those along the surrounding edges.

According to DTN meteorologists Bryce Anderson and Mike Palmerino during their “Late Spring Ag Weather Outlook” Webinar last week, there are areas where planting is going great and areas where weather has severely hampered planting efforts. This happens almost every spring. In 2009, Mother Nature has chosen to pick on the northern and eastern flanks of the Corn Belt, where rainfall has delayed planting, particularly to the east.

They noted that areas such as Iowa, planting is moving along quite well, and some growers are moving on to planting their soybean crops. Last spring was a much different story in north-central Iowa, where flooding and snowmelt caused many delays and replantings.

The Mississippi River is generally a demarcation point for the “haves” — those able to plant because of good weather, and the “have-nots” — those who are waiting for dry enough soil for planting. Need an example? Palmerino pointed to the “huge disparity” between Iowa (60 percent planting complete) and Illinois (5 percent planting complete). A year ago, that disparity in was much less and in Illinois’ favor at 25 percent vs. 16 percent for Iowa.

“In Illinois, it’s persistently wet, the soil is saturated, and they can’t get enough dry days to plant,” Palmerino said. Other Eastern states suffering from wet soils and cool weather include Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and southern Missouri. The situation is similar in the Northern states. Heavy precipitation in the winter and spring, followed by a severe flood, has left northern Minnesota and North Dakota far behind, according to the U.S. Grains Council.

Overall, the most recent (at the time of the Webinar) USDA Crop Planting Progress report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) showed that 33 percent of corn had been planted. That was down 17 percent from the five-year average. This week’s NASS report states that corn planting has caught up with the 2008 figures at this point of the season — 48 percent — but before you celebrate, consider that the five-year average at this stage is 71 percent.

This week’s progress report states that Illinois has 10 percent planted compared to its five-year average of 68 percent; Indiana has completed 11 percent vs. its 70 percent average; Michigan has 18 percent complete vs. its 62 percent average; and Ohio has 22 percent planted vs. its 68 percent average.

At 14 percent, corn emergence is ahead of last year, but still lags behind the 28 percent five-year average.

Soybean planting is at 14 percent, compared to 11 percent last year and the 25 percent five-year average. Not surprisingly, the delays seem to be in the eastern Corn Belt. The NASS report shows Illinois with zero acres planted so far, compared to its 28 percent five-year average; Indiana is 2 percent planted vs. its 31 percent average; Ohio is at 13 percent planted vs. its 37 percent average; and Michigan reports 5 percent planted vs. its 29 percent average.

Palmerino and Anderson said the outlook for late spring is more of the same. "I just don’t see it changing all that much," said Palmerino. "Going forward from mid-month, things will probably be better – temperatures warmer, showers more scattered — in the affected areas. Most of the major states are running ahead of schedule, but the eastern Corn Belt will see gradual improvement."

How are your grower-customers faring? Is this the best, worst, or just average of the spring planting seasons of recent years?

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