Farm fields remain dormant and empty so far this April across most of the state. And as you may have guessed, the weather is the main culprit slowing things down.

Cold spring and snow showers certainly have put a damper on things for folks with spring fever that want to get outside, but it has been even worse for farmers.

Cold days and colder overnights, rain and snow have kept farmers out of the field and seed out of the ground. The goal for farmers to start planting corn is hitting the 50° mark for soil temperatures, and considering we’ve struggled to hit 50° with daily air high temperatures, it’s beginning to make some nervous, though all that can be done right now is wait.

Getting average soil temperatures up to 50°, which is the preferred range for corn and soybeans, is not enough. Unless a warming trend also follows, soil temperatures can easily drop back well below that temperature, and corn seeds can fail to germinate at temperatures under 50°.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the pattern that we’ve seen here in Iowa, a few warm days, quickly followed by cold, including record lows Tuesday. Soil temperatures to start the week were under 45° for most of the state, and have even dipped below 35° in Northern Iowa Tuesday.

Monday’s USDA Crop Progress Report revealed more bad news. Even if farmers wanted to, there have only been 6 days total suitable for fieldwork the last 3 weeks in Central Iowa. That number is hardly different if you include the whole state. At this point last year, only 4 percent of the corn crop had been planted, but the problem is things should be accelerating now because the 5-year average (for the planted corn crop) jumps to 20% next week.

Many locations across the state will pass their average date for topping soil temperatures over 50° this week, and unfortunately, most still remain several days and perhaps weeks away from warming past that threshold. With that typical date passing by, each day going forward starts to carry a heavier toll in delaying the planting season.