#Plant20 Update: Soybean Planting Pushes Ahead in Spite of Weather Challenges

Another week of spring planting is in the books, and it appears that not even a polar vortex can slow the overall planting progress farmers are making. Temperatures this past weekend plummeted into the 20s across much of the Midwest, setting record daily lows in hundreds of counties.

And yet USDA’s crop progress report released on Monday, May 11, showed soybean plantings in the U.S., on aggregate, four times further along than they were at this point in 2019 and well ahead of the five-year average. 

We’ll know soon enough whether pushing ahead in spite of a menacing late chill was prudent, but putting planters away in the middle of May is a refreshing prospect—particularly with the planting challenges of 2019 in the rearview mirror.

The progress we’ve observed with soybean planting so far hasn’t been shared equally across all geographies, though. FBN’s May 14 soybean planting progress poll shows member farmers in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska nearly completed—30 to 40 percentage points ahead of average—while the Mississippi Delta region and parts of the Mid-South and Southeast lag behind.

Spring precipitation has governed #plant20, creating a split reality where parts of the Upper Midwest have become unnervingly dry and many areas south of I-70 remain wet to the point of irritation.

A glance at the last few U.S. Drought Monitor updates show drought creeping east from the Colorado Front Range into Kansas and Southern Nebraska with parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota falling to pre-drought, ‘abnormally dry’ conditions in yesterday’s release.

This dry pattern will reverse—at least over this weekend. Nearly all of the Eastern U.S. is forecast to get 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rainfall Friday to Sunday with a narrower, northeast-leaning swath from San Antonio to Akron accumulating up to 4 inches. 

This moisture is timely in many regions given planting progress and expanding dryness; some of the heaviest precipitation, however, will fall on areas that could use a break from all of the rainfall.

Soil crusting, washing along hill slopes and ponding in low areas are a few conditions that can result from heavy rainfall, and all of these can hamstring early crop establishment. Adding this near-term forecast to last weekend’s record chill demands early-season scouting attention to monitor potential fallout in your fields.

Here’s hoping the last two weekends in May see less intense, less extreme weather events than the first two!

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