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Weather thwarts early corn planting hopes

Feedback from the Field: Corn growers have not made major progress on planting and uncooperative extended forecasts could keep sowing speeds slow.

Jacqueline Holland, Grain market analyst

April 18, 2024

5 Min Read
Planter parked in Iowa field
Rachel Schutte

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. To share your insights, 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!

It’s early in the season but farmers across the country are already champing at the bit to advance planting activities for the 2024 growing season. But despite a warm February that had many growers looking to start planting early, typical spring weather is preventing planting progress from taking off at a rapid rate.

For corn acres, USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report found 6% of anticipated 2024 acres had been planted as of last Sunday, up 3% from the previous week. The “I”-states comprising the top producers in the Corn Belt only saw 1-3 days which were suitable for fieldwork, most of which came over the weekend.


Producers taking part in Farm Futures’ Feedback from the Field series echoed those sentiments, with producers in Illinois and Wisconsin noting “cold and wet” conditions that have kept them out of the fields.

Planting progress has advanced more quickly further south, with FFTF producers in Oklahoma and Missouri nearing completion earlier this week. “Cool and a little wet once seed went in the ground,” shared a corn grower in Northeast Oklahoma. “Still waiting on emergence for my fields but earliest planted fields here are up and going.”

Drought worries loom large

Moisture remains a key concern not just for recently planted fields, but also for fields awaiting planting. “It’s been dry,” reported a producer in Northwest Missouri. “Got a nice inch of rain last night [Tuesday].”

Key growing regions in the Plains and Upper Midwest continue to battle a multi-year drought. An El Niño winter limited snowfall along the Northern Border and while that has helped to advance early spring wheat planting, it could cause stunted crop development further down the road in the 2024 growing season, especially if La Niña conditions intensify over the summer.


“Moisture is better than spring of 2023 but not super great either,” observed an Eastern Nebraska corn grower. “Got some rain early morning of April 16th and hope to get more in next few days. Very little corn planted in my area.”

Through last Tuesday, 38.39% of the country was experiencing abnormally dry to drought conditions. About 23% of corn acres and 22% of soybean acres were fighting off drought, flat to slightly lower than the previous week.

The Great Lakes region received several inches of rain last week, but little – if any – precipitation fell in drought-stressed areas of the Plains, Upper Midwest, and Northern Plains during that time.


“Need rain!” exclaimed an Iowa corn grower in the FFTF responses.

Planting forecasts

The soil temperature across most of the Heartland has topped the critical 50-degree mark for corn over the past week, so now farmers will just have to wait for clear skies to move forward at full steam with planting.

Showers continue to stretch across the Upper Plains into the Eastern Corn Belt late this week. More showers moved across the Central Plains overnight on Thursday, settling over the Mississippi River Valley and Great Lakes Basin Thursday during the day and finally moving out of the Eastern Corn Belt by Friday afternoon.

Snowfall is forecasted for the Northern Plains from Wednesday evening into Friday. The Southern Plains will likely see a chance of rain on Saturday. Temperatures will remain chilly in the Northern Plains through Saturday.

Skies will finally clear by Sunday, though there will not likely be much of a reprieve as the Upper Midwest could see more rain showers by Monday morning.

In the short run, it does not seem like planting speeds are going to have much of a chance at advancing further through the weekend in the Heartland. And while warmer temperatures are expected to return to key growing regions by late next week, accompanying showers could continue to thwart planting activities.


NOAA’s 6-10-day outlook is trending warmer than average for most of the Heartland through the middle of next week, with the High Plains enjoying the greatest chances for warmth. Above average expectations for showers will also cover the Heartland during that time, with drought-stricken regions of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa receiving the highest chances for rain by mid-week.


The temperature and precipitation outlook intensify as the week comes to a close, according to NOAA’s 8-14-day outlook. Temperatures will continue to trend warm late next week, especially in the Central and Southern Plains. Moisture outlooks will also intensify, which could keep farmers out of the fields consistently through the end of April.

Key takeaways

USDA’s Prospective Plantings report published a few weeks ago indicated farmers would plant fewer corn acres (90.0M ac., -5%) and more soybeans (86.5M ac., +4%) this spring. Higher than expected anhydrous application rates have some market watchers (hi!) convinced that more corn acreage could be found this spring.

Interact with the 2024 Feedback from the Field map:

But if farmers continue to struggle with wet weather delays over the next couple weeks, it increases the likelihood we will see a big annual drop in corn acreage this spring. Anecdotal information I’ve gathered this week suggests that farmers have moved earlier and faster on soybean acreage in the past week. If these to items prove to be true, then final acreages could shake out very similarly to USDA’s Prospective Plantings figure.

If that’s the case, then we can expect to see some bullish price support for corn. Indeed, weather delays are likely to spur some rallies for the corn market in the coming days. But we still have a massive corn crop to continue eating through and if the weather cooperates better than the forecasts are projecting over the next couple weeks, we could see more corn harvested by the fall.

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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