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Maps are telling a mixed weather yarn

My Take: Thankfully, farmers have taken advantage of perfect planting days.

Chris Torres, Editor, American Agriculturist

May 21, 2024

3 Min Read
a soybean field with puddles of rain water
WET BEANS: Last week’s deluge soaked this field of growing soybeans near Manheim, Pa. Chris Torres

Right now, as I stare out my basement window, it’s raining again.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the rain. A rainy day here and there is OK, and it’s great for growing crops (not too much, of course), but it just seems like buckets of rain have been falling as of late.

Just how wet has it been? Well, that depends on where you live. Where I live in south-central Pennsylvania, the past 30 days have actually been drier than normal. Yeah, hard to believe, but according to official data from the National Weather Service, much of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Ohio and Michigan have seen precipitation about an inch or 2 below normal the past 30 days:

A map showing 30-day departure precipitation as of May 15, 2024 in the Northeastern United States

Now, zoom out 60 days, and it’s a completely different story:

A map showing 60-day departure precipitation as of May 15, 2024 in the Northeastern United States

As you can see, very few places were below normal precipitation. In fact, some places such as western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio saw 4 to 6 inches more rainfall than normal.

So, I’m not delusional, it has been wet. It just depends on the time frame you’re looking at.  

April lived up to its reputation as a wet month, according to the monthly report from the Northeast Regional Climate Center. Some spots were deluged. Pittsburgh, for example, recorded its second-wettest April on record with 7.93 inches of rain, well above the average 3.32 inches.

Rochester, N.Y., was also wet, recording 4.35 inches in April. Normal precipitation is 2.99 inches. Wilmington, Del., recorded 4.58 inches of rain in April. The normal is 3.51 inches.

How has this affected planting? My own tour of Lancaster County fields last week showed a lot of corn and soybeans sprouting. When farmers had the window to plant, they took advantage, unlike some places in the Midwest where plantings have fallen behind

Data from the most recent Crop Progress Report for Pennsylvania show 29% of the state’s corn planted, which is behind last year’s pace of 33%, but right around the five-year average of 26%. Soybeans are 19% planted, slightly behind last year’s pace of 22%, but ahead of the five-year average of 12%.

Michigan farmers have 26% of corn in the ground, which is about average, but 22% of soybeans planted, which is below average. Things look better in Ohio where 36% of corn has been planted, well ahead of last year’s pace of 22%, and ahead of the 29% five-year average. Soybeans are 27% planted, just about last year’s pace but ahead of the five-year average of 18%.

New York farmers have 11% of corn planted, well behind last year’s pace of 18%, but just slightly behind the five-year average of 13%. Only 6% of soybeans have been planted, which is right about average.

If you live where I live, enjoy the rest of the week. It’s supposed to be beautiful. And if you need time to catch up, take advantage!

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About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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