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Soggy fields frustrate eager farmers

Feedback from the Field: Farmers report spotty planting progress as Mother Nature continues to throw weather challenges their way.

Jacqueline Holland, Grain market analyst

May 9, 2024

7 Min Read
Wet farm field drive
Getty Images/Dariusz Banaszuk

Author’s note: You can participate in the Feedback from the Field series as frequently as you like throughout the growing season! Questions have been updated to reflect current crop conditions. If you’d like to share your insights, click this link to take the survey and share updates about your farm’s spring progress. I review and upload results daily to the FFTF Google MyMap, so farmers can see others’ responses from across the country – or even across the county!

Planting progress was slowed last week as saturated fields kept farmers from pushing forward with spring fieldwork activities. Feedback from the Field respondents mostly expressed frustration over the soggy conditions but also reported spotty planting completion rates over the past couple weeks.

“It rains all the time,” lamented a grower in Central Ohio at the beginning of May. “[The] ground just gets dry, and another shower comes through.”


The widespread wetness spanned the Western Plains all the way to the Appalachian Mountains. “It rained April 25 – the day I wanted to plant,” a corn producer in Eastern Nebraska shared. “It’s been too wet since.”

Persistent showers across the “I”-states, which comprise the heart of the Corn Belt, as well as the Upper Midwest allowed farmers only three to four days of suitable fieldwork conditions throughout the reporting week. Growers in the Plains had a little extra time, but not much. Suitable fieldwork days ranged between 3.7 and 5.8 between North Dakota and Oklahoma, with wetter conditions further north.

Related:Weather thwarts early corn planting hopes

Farmers’ reactions

This seems a little higher than the prior week’s suitable days for fieldwork. But I suspect – based on anecdotes through the grapevine – that even if soil conditions looked good on the surface, farmers were still unable to make meaningful planting progress last week.

U.S. Corn Planting Progress

“The topsoil looked dry, but everything underneath it was soaked,” my brother, an agronomist in Northwest Illinois, noted of the fields he watches.

USDA’s Crop Progress report published on Monday found corn planting paces dipping below the five-year average benchmark for the reporting week ending May 5, 2024 as widespread showers across the Heartland limited planting activity. As of last Sunday, 36% of expected 2024 corn acres were in the ground.


What progress has been made has been spotty. While parts of Iowa – the country’s top corn-producing state – have largely completed planting over the past week, portions of the Eastern Plains, Upper Midwest, and Eastern Corn Belt are struggling to get started.

“[It’s been] nothing, nothing, [then planting] 18 hours a day for five days in a row and then nothing, nothing [again],” a Northern Illinois corn grower explained.

“Too wet to plant,” reported a Western Illinois farmer. “Terribly wet conditions,” echoed a grower further south by St. Louis.

Temperature has also played a factor, with less heat last week slowing progress further north. “Very wet and cold soil,” said a Northwestern Wisconsin producer.

Some optimism prevails

But not everyone has been deterred by the weather. Some are banking on the long-term benefits of recent rain showers. Indeed – we are still within the optimal planting window to maximize corn yields for the next couple weeks and sunny skies this weekend will help advance planting progress across the Heartland.

“After a dry winter rain has been plentiful drought is over will be a week before get in field rain every other day,” shared a Central Minnesota farmer.

Forecast map

“We've been waiting for ground to dry out, but planting has gone smooth so far,” echoed a Northern Indiana producer. “We were glad to get the rain as our subsoils were dry, but we were glad they quit for a while.”

“Finally got rain starting last Tuesday,” reported a South-Central Iowa grower who had already completed corn planting this spring. “Now we need some warm sunny days!”

Soybeans off to strong start

Soybean planting progress has also gone in fits and starts for farmers, with many opting to plant beans ahead of corn to maximize yield potential. Soybeans tend to handle cooler germination conditions heartier than their corn counterparts, which justifies the scattered planting progress reports.

“Decent stand,” a Louisiana soybean farmer shared. “Soybeans planted on April 10 and 16 are coming up and looking good,” shared a grower in Northern Indiana who still had the majority of the 2024 soybean crop to plant as of late last week.

Feedback from the Field soybean planting progress

“Nice planting conditions, but now it’s wet,” observed a Northwestern Iowa soybean grower who had finished planting beans early last week. “Good planting conditions,” echoed a producer in Northwestern Illinois who had completed planting.

“No-till beans are going in fast, but it is the first week of May and we normally start planting beans in April, so we're behind some,” reported another Northern Indiana farmer who was over halfway finished with beans as of Tuesday.

Showers derail progress

“I have worked bean ground, but then it rains, and I am back to square one,” lamented an Ohio producer.

But there are still some jitters about recent rain deluges even with ample time left for optimal soybean planting and yield development. “We got way behind on early planting due to wet conditions,” worried a Southwestern Illinois grower. A Northeastern Nebraska farmer “got washing from hard rains” over this past weekend.

U.S. soybean planting progress

And even though soybeans have been finished planting in South-Central Iowa, recent rains and cool temperatures will be needed to boost germination rates. “They especially need some warm sunny days,” a local farmer shared. “[The seeds] were planted deeper cause of dry conditions.”

Mixed weather outlook

The rest of this week might be rainy, but clear skies are finally back in the forecast by the end of the week. It will be narrow window, however, according to the National Weather Service’s short-term forecasts.

Skies will mostly clear across the Heartland early Friday morning, though some residual showers in the Northern Lake States and Eastern Corn Belt will pass through. Showers could linger in the Eastern Corn Belt on Saturday, but skies are expected to remain clear elsewhere across the Corn Belt into the evening.

At that point, the High and Southern Plains could see showers as rain clears out of the Eastern Corn Belt on Saturday night. Sunday will start out clear for the Heartland, but widespread showers are expected for most of the Corn Belt by Sunday afternoon.

6-10 day temperature outlook

If there is a silver lining to be had, it is that temperatures are going to remain warm throughout the extended forecast, which should help dry up wet fields when the skies do clear. NOAA’s 6-10-day outlook predicts above average chances for warm temperatures throughout the middle of next week, with the Upper Midwest enjoying the highest probability of warmth.

6-10 day precipitation outlook

Moisture outlooks during the middle to end of next week continue to trend higher than average for key corn and soybean producing states in the U.S., with the Southern Plains receiving the highest chances for showers. Skies will remain dry in the Pacific Northwest during that time.

8-14 day precipitation and temperature outlook

Looking to next weekend, widespread warmth will continue to dominate the temperature outlook, according to NOAA’s 8-14-day forecast. Moisture probabilities in the Upper Midwest will revert to seasonal averages, with the Southern Plains and Southern Corn Belt forecasted to receive highest chances for moisture during that time.

It’s been a rough start for some, and it seems highly likely that farmers will continue to dodge rain drops over the next week or so. But nevertheless, farmers are plowing through spring fieldwork as quickly as possible.

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About the Author(s)

Jacqueline Holland

Grain market analyst, Farm Futures

Holland grew up on a dairy farm in northern Illinois. She obtained a B.S. in Finance and Agribusiness from Illinois State University where she was the president of the ISU chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association. Holland earned an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University where her research focused on large farm decision-making and precision crop technology. Before joining Farm Progress, Holland worked in the food manufacturing industry as a financial and operational analyst at Pilgrim's and Leprino Foods. She brings strong knowledge of large agribusiness management to weekly, monthly and daily market reports. In her free time, Holland enjoys competing in triathlons as well as hiking and cooking with her husband, Chris. She resides in the Fort Collins, CO area.

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