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Farmers don't need to wait long for ideal corn planting conditions

DES MOINES, Iowa – Corn planting season has kicked off in Iowa, and planters are rolling across the state. But what about the weather?

For the development of a corn plant, the days immediately following planting can have a significant effect on the life cycle of the plant. That’s why farmers are closely monitoring the forecast before they head into the fields this spring.

They’re looking for soil temperatures to be 50 degrees or higher, and with a warming trend, so that seeds can germinate, or sprout. Farmers also don’t want the soil to be too wet, so after this weekend’s rainfall many producers will be waiting until field conditions improve.

Farmers in Iowa typically start planting around April 15th, and according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker, temperatures so far this planting season have been on the warm side.

”This current month of April has particularly unusual for how warm it’s been,” said Hillaker on Monday. “Statewide we’ve been averaging about five and a half degrees above normal for the first almost three weeks of the month now, and that’s a pretty big departure for this time of the year. Certainly, it makes the top ten probably, for warmest starts to April. Although, this coming week isn’t going to be that way. It’s going to be very different.”

This week, Hillaker says conditions across the state will likely trend toward drier and cooler.

”Really very small rain chances getting toward the weekend coming up,” said Hillaker. “And even then, it doesn’t look like anything really substantial. But temperatures will be below normal, which ‘normal’ now here in central Iowa is like low 40s for overnight lows, and mid-60s for daytime highs. We’ll be looking at temperatures generally around ten degrees or so below those readings all this week and so a lot cooler than we’ve been.”

Hillaker adds that because not much rainfall is expected, topsoil will likely dry out quickly, meaning producers won’t need to wait too long before getting back into the fields.

Here in Iowa, USDA corn planting season will continue into mid-May.

To hear more about planting weather from State Climatologist Harry Hillaker, click the audio player above this story.