Slow Start To Spring Fieldwork In Most Areas


April 25, 2022


Spring fieldwork has been slow to begin in the Midwest in 2022, with conditions across most portions of the region vastly different than last year. Except for a few brief stints of some warmer temperatures, very cool weather conditions have existed throughout the Upper Midwest during most of the month of April. This has resulted in soil conditions that have not been conducive to corn planting in most areas. Heavy rainfall in the past week in some areas has added to the planting delays. In addition, a couple of major snowstorm events has impacted large portions of North and South Dakota, Montana, and Northern Minnesota during the past couple of weeks.

Normally by late April, Midwest farmers have a good start on Spring fieldwork and have begun planting season for the year. However, April of 2022 has been much different, with extremely cold temperatures during most of the month and with soils still partially frozen in many locations. If farm operators were able to plant a small amount of corn during April, there is now concern about the seedling viability of that corn due to the extended period cool and damp soil conditions that has existed across the region. It now appears that it will be May 1st or later before full-scale fieldwork begins in many areas of the Upper Midwest.

At the University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, Minnesota, the average 24-hour air temperature during the first three weeks of April was only 36.5 degrees Fahrenheit (F), which was almost 9 degrees F below normal. As of April 25, the maximum air temperature at Waseca had only topped 60 degrees F four times during April, including twice this past weekend, and minimum temperature at the research site dipped below 32 degrees F on 9 days from April 14-25. By comparison, at the Waseca site in 2021 the average air temperature for the entire month of April was 45.9 degrees F and the maximum daily temperature exceeded 60 degrees F on 13 days. The 10-day forecast for Southern Minnesota from April 25 to May 4 projects 24-hour average temperatures below 50 degrees F, which is certainly not very favorable for corn and soybean planting.

The average soil temperature at the 2-4 inch level since April 15 at the Waseca research location has remained below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F), until a few days this past weekend when average soil temperatures reached the upper 40’s. It does not appear that there will be much improvement in average soil temperatures in the Upper Midwest until after May 1. These soil temperatures are too cold for good corn seed germination and early corn seedling development. The long-term average soil temperatures at the end of April at Waseca are more typically in the mid-50’s at the 2-4 inch level. 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. At soil temperatures below 50 degrees F, seed germination is very slow and corn seedling vigor is greatly reduced.

Even though planting dates are starting to get somewhat late in many areas of the 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 conducive for seed germination. Given the high cost per acre of seed corn, and the limited availability of some of the best yielding corn hybrids in 2022, most growers do not want to take the risk of planting corn into poor soil conditions. Normally, in early 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 planting will resume as soon as the field conditions dry out and are fit for planting. Most likely, farm operators will move directly into soybean planting once they have completed their corn acres, or will plant some soybeans if corn planting is delayed in some fields.

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 20 to May 10. Even though corn planting is off to very slow start in 2022, compared to recent years, the good news is that there are still opportunities for timely planting and close to optimal yields.

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 extends until about May 20, and even beyond that date in some years, so there is still plenty of time to get the 2022 soybean crop planted.

A good example of later corn planting dates with favorable yield results was in 2017. Following a brief early corn planting period in mid-April, most of the corn in 2017 across Southern and Western Minnesota was planted during a period that extended about May 5-20, which ended with a record statewide average corn yield of 194 bushels per acre in 2017. On the other hand, the corn planting dates were also delayed in both 2018 and 2019 in many portions of Minnesota. The statewide average corn yields in those two years were 182 bushels per acre in 2018 and only 173 bushels in 2019, which was the lowest statewide corn yield in recent years. The biggest difference in those years was that the 2017 growing season featured almost ideal growing conditions in many areas after the corn was planted in early to mid-May. 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.

According to the USDA Weekly Planting Progress Report on April 17, only 4 percent of the 2022 corn acreage in the United States was planted by that date, compared to 7 percent planted by that date in 2021. There was no significant corn planted in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota or Wisconsin as of April 17 this year while Nebraska had 2 percent of the intended corn acreage planted. Only a minimal amount of corn planting has occurred in most major corn production States since April 17. A year ago in 2021, over 50 percent of the corn had been planted in in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois by the end of April, with several other States not far behind. In 2021, 75-85 percent of the corn was planted by May 10 in many areas of the Midwest, with the exception being some portions of the Eastern Corn Belt that were very wet during the Spring of 2021.

Based on the March 1st USDA Planting Intentions Report, U.S. crop producers were expected to plant 89.5 million acres of corn and 91.5 million acres of soybeans in 2022. Most farm operators in the Upper Midwest will likely not switch intended 2022 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, the current strong cash prices for corn in the Fall of 2022 make corn production quite profitable for most producers this year, even if final 2022 corn yields are slightly less than optimum levels.

One piece of good news for farm operators in many portions of the Upper Midwest is that recent rainfall and wet snowfall weather events have helped ease drought conditions in many locations. Many areas are entering the 2022 growing season in much better shape for stored soil moisture than they were following harvest in 2021. There are still portions of Western Minnesota and Iowa, as well some locations in Nebraska, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota where conditions are a bit drier than normal. There should be adequate soil moisture this year for good corn and soybean germination and early season growth in most areas of the Upper Midwest.


Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and Sr. Vice President, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. (Phone — (507) 381-7960) E-mail — Web Site —


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