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Heavy rain stalls 2024 spring planting season for Midwest
By Doug Schmitz
Iowa Correspondent

COATESVILLE, Ind. – For Mark Legan, a Coatesville corn and soybean producer, spring planting has yet to get underway for him and his neighboring farmers in the west central part of the state.
“There was some field work done in March and early April, but six to seven-plus inches of rain over the last two weeks put a stop to that,” he told Farm World. “We and some neighbors have been able to resume spraying cover crops the middle of this week (April 14-20), and the ground has started to shape up again.
“Without any additional rain this week, I would say planters could be rolling by this weekend (April 20-21); however, several nights coming up of lows in the 30s makes it hard to get too excited,” added Legan, who serves on the Indiana Soybean Alliance board of directors, and is also a pork producer.
Like Legan, Stan Born, a Lovington, Ill., soybean grower and an American Soybean Association director, hasn’t been able to start his spring planting due to the persistent rain.
“Like myself, neighbors are watching the forecast for rain events coming this week and forecast night-time lows in upper 30s, and just waiting it out,” he told Farm World. “We have plenty of moisture in the upper soil profile at least. I expect early next week will be go-time for planters here.”
According to Indiana State Statistician Nathanial Warenski at the state’s USDA field office, another week of abnormally high precipitation saturated fields and prevented planting.
“Corn planted, at 1 percent, was behind the five-year average,” he said. “Winter wheat jointing progressed slightly ahead of the five-year average. The crop was rated 74 percent good to excellent.”
In Illinois, corn planted reached 3 percent, compared to the five-year average of 4 percent. Soybeans planted reached 4 percent, compared to the five-year average of 1 percent. Winter wheat headed reached 5 percent, compared to the five-year average of 3 percent.”
In Michigan, Marlo Johnson, USDA’s Great Lakes Regional Office director, said above-average temperatures and dry conditions early in the week and very pleasant weather late in the week allowed farmers to make good sugar beet planting progress. Winter wheat continued to green up and was looking good across the state.
In Ohio, State Statistician Ben Torrance said farmers reported that with the excess rain, the only field work that could be done was applying herbicide and fertilizing wheat. Oats were 11 percent planted. Winter wheat was 51 percent jointed, and winter wheat condition was 70 percent good to excellent. Warmer-than-normal conditions continued to push fruit crop development.
In Kentucky, David Knopf, USDA’s Kentucky field office director, said corn is currently at 9 percent planted, down slightly from the five-year average of 11 percent at this time. Soybeans are at 8 percent planted. Seeding of tobacco transplants continues normally, with 60 percent seeded.
In Tennessee, the state’s USDA field office said the state experienced variable temperatures and heavy rainfall the previous week (April 7-13). Some regions experienced storms with high winds and hail, which yielded some damage to strawberry crops as well as a few barns and greenhouses.
“Continuous rain kept producers mostly out of the fields this week, but corn and soybean planting are already well on their way,” the office said. “The precipitation has been very beneficial for pasture growth and winter wheat progress, with producers reporting most wheat crops looking healthy and strong.”
In Iowa, Mike Naig, Iowa agriculture secretary, said, “Planters have started to roll across the state with the help of a string of warm spring days. However, there may be a temporary pause in planting as the forecast shows the potential for severe thunderstorms early this week, followed by near-freezing, low temperatures toward the weekend.”
The USDA’s Iowa field office said some corn and soybeans were planted, with 4 percent of the expected corn acreage has been planted. Oats seeding reached 66 percent complete.
When asked whether the record-breaking warm, dry weather conditions in January and February will affect this year’s planting and growing seasons, Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub director in Ames, Iowa, told Farm World, there would be no direct impact, except for soil moisture. 
“The very warm winter kept soils unfrozen, largely allowing rains and even a good part of the snow to melt, helping soil moisture,” he said. “The warmth also allowed for more evaporation from the soil, much more than we would expect during the winter. The warmer conditions have also allowed soils to warm and be ready for planting more readily.”
State Climatologist of Iowa Justin Glisan told Farm World, “Where warm and dry conditions were present, drought and abnormally dry conditions expanded. In terms of what this holds for the growing season, portions of the Corn Belt are short on soil moisture, and will need a wetter pattern and timely rainfalls to push the crop along in the drier areas.”
Legan said, “I am not sure what effect the warm, dry winter will have on this year’s crop. I probably was more concerned before the recent rains. If we can get the crop planted in the next month, decent stands and timely rain, we could very well have another good crop. Subsoil moisture is important, but to those of us that measure our topsoil in inches instead of feet, we have to have rain in July and August.”
Born said the warm and dry March, carried over from the warmer temperatures in January and February, allowed him to get spring nitrogen applied for corn.
“However, the rains came in early April and have us in pretty good shape,” he said. “I’m hopeful the delayed planting start will come with warmer temperatures so seeds will germinate and emerge quickly, and get our season started.”
For the three-week outlook, Todey said, “After a significant storm system entering the region right now, we will see some severe weather and decent rains over much of the Western Corn Belt. Then colder air will spread throughout the region through the weekend, bringing near- to below-freezing temperatures in the Northwestern Corn Belt. 
“The Eastern Corn Belt will also cool, but right now, it seems to avoid the sub-freezing temperatures,” he said. “That can change and needs to be monitored. Then early next week and out several weeks, warmer-than-average conditions tend to prevail. I expect crop progress to pick up this week, and really ramp up next week (April 21-26).”
Glisan said, “The climatological outlooks into the first week of May show a strong signal for warmer-than-average temperatures and elevated probabilities for wetter conditions from the Western Corn Belt to the Appalachians.”