Wet Conditions May Slow Planting

Precipitation that has soaked parts of the U.S. Corn Belt this winter may delay spring corn planting, but the moisture will likely improve plant growth in cattle pastures, meteorologists told Dow Jones Newswires.

The weather forecasters say the ground could be too wet to plant corn if even average rainfall occurs between now and the start of planting in April.

“Obviously, much of the Corn Belt is pretty wet right now,” says Charlie Notis, a meteorologist and co-owner of Freese-Notis Weather in Des Moines, IA. “The soil moisture is way up there, especially in the eastern part of the Corn Belt. It wouldn't take much to get some planting delays. It's going to be sensitive.”

Along with the eastern Corn Belt, parts of the Delta also are “really wet,” says Mike Tannura, meteorologist and commodity analyst with T-Storm Weather.

“If typical rainfall keeps on falling, even if we have normal rainfall, it would be a little too wet to start the growing season,” Tannura tells Dow Jones.

Granted, predicting the weather can sometimes be as much art as it is science, especially in long-range forecasts. Still, there doesn't appear to be much indication that precipitation levels will fall below normal in the Corn Belt, meteorologists note.

Some areas even appear on track to receive above-average moisture, says Don Keeney, agricultural meteorologist for MDA Federal. Northeastern Missouri, southeastern Iowa and far northwestern Illinois could see more precipitation than usual, he says.

“I don't see any below-normal periods in any of the Corn Belt for April, to be quite honest,” Keeney says. “Almost all of the Midwest is near normal and almost slightly above normal.”

He points out, however, that he didn't “see any wetness concerns” for planting at this early point.

Mike Palmerino, senior agricultural meteorologist for DTN Meteorlogix, says the Delta and Ohio River Valley appear to be at the greatest risk for excessive soil moisture. Moving northwest, the soil isn't as soggy, he adds.

“In general you're not looking at saturated soil conditions in areas like Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, the Dakotas,” Palmerino tells Dow Jones. “They've had decent moisture to get planting underway, but there shouldn't be any issues with them getting bogged down in wet conditions. You could be looking at a normal or even a little bit ahead-of-normal planting schedule for the western corn belt.”

The current El Nino, weather event is partly to blame for the precipitation that has dampened the soil so far, meteorologists say. That system is now weakening, although it hasn't totally ended, Palmerino adds. If El Nino shifts dramatically into a La Nina pattern that could increase the risk of drought this summer, he says.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, The Corn And Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.