It is only the beginning of April but there is already talk about planting delays. For six Midwestern states, the 2013/14 winter was the coldest in decades and some areas are still getting snow. Many parts of the country had record snowfall totals for the winter and the soil is slow to warm up this spring. Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, says some areas have phenomenal frost depths that range from five to seven feet. With cold weather still the norm across some key states, the frost isn't budging. Rippey says that the chances of warmer weather arriving anytime soon across much of the Midwest is slim to none.
It is too early to conclude that farmers will be unable to get their corn planted during the "normal planting window, but it is probably not too early to begin to worry about pre-planting fieldwork and the start of the planting season. With the latest equipment, farmers can plant huge amounts of acreage in a surprisingly short period of time. Remember how challenging the weather was in 2013 – but farmers were still able to plant more than 95 million acres of corn and 76.5 million acres of soybeans. While the forecast maps show colder than normal temperatures for the Midwest in April, at least for now the outlook for May is much less ominous.
There is a spreading region in the western Corn Belt that is abnormally dry, according to the latest drought monitor and even a few areas experiencing severe drought. According to USDA's Rippey, the map shows we still have some hidden subsoil moisture deficits in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. However, the drought problems are a lot less serious than they were at the beginning of April last year. But with relatively low subsoil moisture in the western Corn Belt precipitation during the growing season will be critical.