With temperatures in the Midwest about 20 degrees below normal at the beginning of spring people will soon start to consider the weather impact on spring planting. As of now, snow covers the ground in North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, northern Iowa, all of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan and northern Illinois and Indiana.

Until the weather warms up this snow cover will remain in place. The near-term forecast doesn’t suggest that the upper Midwest will see a spring thaw very soon.

The weather forecasts also suggest some challenges ahead. The National Weather Service predicts above normal precipitation all through the Midwest – from western Pennsylvania to the western edge of the Dakotas – in April. But temperatures through the eastern Corn Belt are predicted to be above normal through April. Depending on the timing of the precipitation, spring fieldwork will get off to a pretty slow start next month.

The longer term forecast (April through June) also suggests planting season challenges for much of the key growing area in the Midwest. Precipitation is forecast above normal from Missouri through Ohio, especially in Illinois, Indiana and southern Michigan. Temperatures are predicted to be above normal for almost all of the eastern two-thirds of the United States. These forecasts indicate a planting season that is very different from what we saw in 2012 when conditions were nearly ideal and farmers could plant essentially as much as they wanted of all major crops.

The weekly Drought Monitor shows the area with severe to exceptional drought continues to shrink. Conditions remain extremely poor in the central Plains states with exceptional drought conditions in Nebraska, western Kansas and Colorado. But except for some areas in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, the Corn Belt states are almost drought-free.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook shows improvement in the western Corn Belt states where the drought persists. The Outlook shows some improvement even in Nebraska and Kansas where some of the worst drought conditions currently persist. It may be too late to save some of the winter wheat planted in the Plains states, but improving moisture could convince farmers to plant more land to spring crops.