Anyone who studies or interacts meaningfully with the weather knows that weather forecasting is a dynamic and ever-evolving science. It’s also what makes weather so interesting and, at times, unpredictable. Yet for what is often a nuanced game of chance and statistics, this planting season offers little in the way of surprises.
The short version of the story is that our weather patterns are, in large, sticking closely to what they did last year. For the most part, many of the conditions you experienced last year will return (or linger) throughout the upcoming planting season. On the whole, we can expect a prolonged pattern of dry conditions across the West and western plains, and wetter conditions in the East.
So what gives? Well, it has a lot to do with some of the weather patterns that are unique within the Corn Belt. The Midwest has a generalized pattern wherein wet ground conditions drive wetter weather—and the inverse is true for dry conditions. With lots of moisture in the ground and the atmosphere, conditions favor additional rainfall. With less, the sun bakes the soil and generates heat and lower humidity, which makes it more difficult for rain to occur. In the absence of a marked and persistent change in the jetstream, this feedback loop is a pretty reliable predictor of how the conditions may unfold in your area—even beyond the Midwest itself.
Looking ahead, these patterns are pretty well locked in. That said, there are some notable shifts in the mix. While the drought eased some in the Northern states over the winter, these dry conditions are intensifying a bit and moving farther south. As such, the southern plains are starting this year pretty dry, with a high likelihood that these conditions will persist into the summer. Our simulations overwhelmingly show the same dryness from last year lingering across the western high plains, particularly stretching between the Dakotas through Texas, but also gradually spreading east into southern Minnesota, Iowa, and northwest Missouri.
While farms throughout the West will be wishing for more rain, farms across the East may very well wish for less of it. That’s because the already wet conditions are expected to continue, particularly throughout the Ohio Valley. This is largely due to a concentrated gradient between the dry conditions in the west and the wet conditions in the east. Stretching across much of Missouri and Illinois, this gradient will bring considerable amounts of rain in the southern parts of both states, while the northern areas will remain pretty parched.
Precipitation Outlook: May 2022
Granted, broad weather trends are just that: trends. There will always be local patterns and deviations that could crop up in your neck of the woods. All in all however, the ongoing conditions in your area should inform your strategy for how you manage your inputs throughout the planting season. Knowing what’s ahead is key for planning—and pacing yourself—through the coming months.
Of course, there is always the possibility of localized developments, such as tropical storm systems bringing in much-needed moisture throughout the Gulf Coast. This is of course one of many potential developments we’ll be monitoring as we get closer. But for now, we’re looking at a lot more of the same for this planting season.