Upper Midwest planting may start early, South too wet

Northern Corn Belt monitoring drought, wet conditions persist in southern regions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expects planting to start early in the northern U.S. Corn Belt, but seeding is behind schedule in the southern areas.

A dry winter has contributed to the northern outlook, while wet conditions have persisted in the South.

“I would expect planting to go a little better in the upper Midwest this spring than it will in the Ohio River Valley,” said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a report.

In Texas, farmers often can begin planting by late February, but as of March 15, only 11 percent of the state’s corn crop was seeded. That’s down from the five-year average of 25 percent.

“As of mid-March we haven’t seen a single acre of rice or corn planted in Louisiana,” Rippey said. “That is behind the five-year average.”

Meanwhile, drought conditions are being monitored in the northern Corn Belt in places like Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Steve Baun, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service’s North Central River Forecast Center in Minnesota, said this winter “rivals 2012, which was a very low flow year on the Mississippi River.”

The federal Climate Prediction Center said severe drought pressure in Western states “is also likely to continue in parts of the southern Plains” this spring.

“Forecasters say drought improvement or removal is favored for some areas in the Southwest, southern Rockies, southern Plains and Gulf Coast, while drought development is more likely in parts of the northern Plains, upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes where recent dryness and an outlook of favored below-average precipitation exist,” the agency said.