Weather concerns mounting

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Rain The corn planting season is just getting started, but already there are concerns about potential planting delays. It has been pretty wet all across the Corn Belt recently, but the biggest areas of concern may be in the northwestern part of the region.

Parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota remain snow-covered with no sign of when field work can begin. There is still plenty of time to get the 2013 corn crop planted, but weather conditions are going to have to get more favorable or the concerns about how many acres will actually get planted will intensify.

Some cropland in North and South Dakota is buried below 10 inches to 20 inches of snow in mid-April. In some parts of the state, temperatures have not yet reached 50 degrees. Once the weather does warm up, rapidly melting snow could cause serious flooding in these northern states.

Residents of Fargo, North Dakota, have been busy filling more than 1 million sandbags in preparation for the expected spring flood.

Precipitation last week was above normal essentially everywhere east of a line from eastern Nebraska down through eastern Texas.

In many parts of the country, the week’s precipitation has been more than double the normal level. The very wet weather is also causing planting delays down in Delta and Southeastern states.

Planting progress isn’t all that far behind normal yet, but the discrepancy gets larger with each passing day.

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The near term weather forecast is not very promising. More moisture is expected in the Midwest early next week and very little corn is expected to get planted between now and next weekend. Similar conditions are forecast for the Delta states.

Above-normal precipitation is forecast for essentially the entire eastern half of the country in the 6 to 10 day forecast, which suggests that it will be May before farmers can really get going with spring planting. At least current forecasts suggest planting conditions get a lot better once we get into May.

Farmers now have significantly bigger planting equipment than they did a few years ago and planting can proceed at a very rapid pace once the weather clears and the soils dry out. If the 30-day forecast of below normal precipitation in the central Corn Belt pans out, most farmers in that part of the country should be able to plant the land they want to corn in a timely manner.

The real concern will probably be in the northwest region of the Corn Belt where soils are still covered with snow and well below the temperature to support germination. And it is in these states where corn acreage is forecast to increase.

Farmers in North Dakota said they planned to boost corn acreage by 500,000 acres in the Prospective Plantings report and a 250,000-acre increase is planned for Minnesota. It may be near the middle of May before significant spring crop planting can get rolling in these two states, especially in North Dakota. A lot will depend on when the weather warms up and how much more moisture the area receives.

It is probably too early to conclude that corn planting will be delayed beyond the optimal planting window or that corn acreage will fall short of the 97.3 million acres farmers said they would plant. But progress will probably be slow over the next two to three weeks at least and the delay will make a lot of people nervous.

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