SPRING FIELDWORK PROGRESS MIXED ACROSS THE MIDWEST
Spring fieldwork got off to a good start in many portions of the Upper Midwest in mid-April; however, conditions
have been much different in late April and early May. Frequent rainfall events and above normal precipitation
have kept most farmers out of the field since late April. In some areas, it may take several drier days in order to
return to full-scale fieldwork, and the resulting soil conditions may be less conducive for good planting conditions.
In addition, except for a few brief stints of some warmer temperatures, very cool and cloudy weather conditions
have existed throughout the region in the past couple of weeks. This has slowed germination and emergence of
the corn and soybeans that were planted prior to the prolonged rainfall events. Some standing water and flooding
has occurred in areas that have received high amounts of rainfall and near small rivers and streams. This may
require replanting of crops in some of these areas.

Some portions of the Upper Midwest had very good corn and soybean planting progress in mid-April. Farmers in
some areas were able to take advantage of some brief planting windows that existed from April 12-15 and again
from April 21-25. As a result, portions of the region, such as South Central and Southwest Minnesota and
Northern Iowa, have 80-90 percent of the corn and 30-40 percent of the soybeans planted, while other areas of
the region have very little crop planted. Normally by early May, Midwest farmers have made some significant
planting progress on Spring fieldwork. For farm operators that were able to plant some corn during April, there
has been some concern about the seedling viability of that corn due to the extended period cool and damp soil
conditions that has existed across the region. The good news is that the weather forecast for mid- May appears to
be much more favorable for corn and soybean development in most areas of the Upper Midwest.

The USDA Weekly Planting Progress Report released on April 29 indicated that 27 percent of the intended U.S.
corn acreage for 2024 was planted by that date. This compares to the 5-year average of 22 percent of the corn
planted by that date. As of April 29, Minnesota had 30 percent of the corn planted, compared to a 5-year average
of 18 percent, while Iowa had 39 percent planted, compared to a 5-year average of 28 percent planted. Other
States that were ahead of the 5-year average in corn planting progress on April 29 included Missouri at 63 percent,
South Dakota at 13 percent, Wisconsin at 10 percent, and North Dakota at 6 percent. Illinois and Nebraska were
both near the 5-year average for corn planting progress at 25 percent and 22 percent, while Indiana and Ohio were
behind the normal pace for corn planting with less than 10 percent planted in both States. As of April 29, 18
percent of the U.S. soybeans had been planted, compared to the 5-year average of 10 percent planted by that date.

One piece of good news for farm operators in many portions of the Upper Midwest is that recent rainfall events
have helped ease drought concern for the early portions on the 2024 growing season. Many areas of the primary
corn and soybean production areas in the Upper Midwest were listed as “abnormally dry” to “severe drought” in
the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor entering the month of April. However, frequent rainfall events and above
normal precipitation during April have either eliminated or greatly shrunk to drought concern area in the weekly
update. There should now be adequate soil moisture this year for good corn and soybean germination and early
season plant growth in most areas of the Upper Midwest. In addition, the amount of stored soil moisture in the
top 5 feet of soil has now been restored to much improved levels, compared to the soil moisture conditions that
existed after harvest in 2023 and in early Spring this year.

The University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, Minnesota, recorded 4.53 inches of
rainfall during April, which was 1.23 inches above normal, and has recorded over two inches of additional
precipitation during the first few days of May. This followed several months of below normal precipitation at the
Waseca site. The total precipitation for 2024 at the Waseca site is now near normal. The good news is that most
rainfall events were not extreme and have left the soil conditions very favorable for early season plant growth.

Soil temperatures at the Waseca site were well above normal in mid-April; however, have dropped below normal
by early May. The average soil temperature at the 2-4 inch level on April 15 at the Waseca research location was
above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (F), which is almost ideal for good corn and soybean planting conditions. After
briefly dropping below 50 degrees F, the average soil temperatures have remained in the 50-55 degree F range
during most of late April and early May. Research has shown that 50 percent corn emergence will occur in 20
days at an average soil temperature of 50 degrees F, which is reduced to only 10 days at an average temperature
of 60 degrees F. This may help explain why some of the corn that was planted 2-3 weeks ago has been quite slow
to emerge. The good news is that temperatures are predicted to get warmer in the next couple of weeks.

Even though planting dates have been delayed in many areas of the Upper Midwest, most University and private
agronomists are encouraging producers to be patient with initiating field work, and to wait until soil conditions
are fit for good corn planting and seed germination. Given the high cost per acre of seed corn, and the limited
availability of some of the best yielding corn hybrids in 2024, most growers do not want to take the risk of planting
corn into poor soil conditions. Normally, in mid-May, the soil temperatures warm up quite rapidly, so concern
over cool soil temperatures becomes less of an issue. It is expected that full-scale corn and soybean planting will
resume as soon as the field conditions dry out and are fit for planting.

Timely corn planting in the Upper Midwest is usually one of the key factors to achieving optimum corn yields in
a given year. According to research at land-grant universities and by private seed companies, the “ideal time
window” to plant corn in Upper Midwest in order to achieve optimum yields, if soil conditions are fit for planting,
is typically from about April 15 to May 10. Based on long-term research, the reduction in optimum corn yield
potential with planting dates from May 10-15 in many areas of the region is usually very minimal and is quite
dependent on the growing season weather that follows. Even corn planted from May 15-25 has a good chance of
producing 90-95 percent of optimum yield potential, assuming that there are favorable growing conditions
following planting. The ideal window to plant soybeans in the Upper Midwest and to still achieve optimum yields
starts in late April and extends until mid-May or even beyond in some years, so there is still ample time to get the
2024 soybean crop planted.

Even though corn planting is off to very slow start in some areas in 2024, compared to other years, the good news
is that there are still opportunities for timely planting and close to optimal yields. In both 2022 and 2023, a large
amount of corn in the Upper Midwest was planted in mid-to-late May. Minnesota achieved a record state average
corn yield of 195 bushels per acre in 2022 and ended with a statewide yield of 185 bushel per acre in 2023, which
probably would have been higher had it not been for drought conditions late in the growing season in portions of
the State. On the other hand, the corn planting dates were also delayed in the 2019 crop year in many portions of
Minnesota, when the statewide average corn yield was only 173 bushels per acre, which was the lowest statewide
corn yield in recent years. The biggest difference in those years was that the growing conditions after planting in
2022 and 2023 were almost ideal in many areas from late May until early July. By comparison, the 2019 corn
crop was planted late into poor soil conditions, which was followed by less-than-ideal conditions throughout
much of the growing season.

Most farm operators in the Upper Midwest will likely not switch intended 2024 corn acres to soybeans unless the
corn planting dates get extended into late May or beyond. By April, producers have typically finalized decisions
for seed, fertilizer, and other crop inputs for the growing season, so they are likely to continue with their planned
crop rotations as long as possible. In addition, there is not currently a big advantage in the projected market price
at harvest this year for either corn or soybeans. New crop corn and soybean prices for the Fall of 2024 have
remained fairly low in recent months due to weaker than expected demand and export volume, together with
USDA projecting increases in corn and soybean inventories by the end of 2024.
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Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst, Green Solutions
Phone — (507) 381-7960; E-mail — kentthiesse@gmail.com