With its first weekly Crop Progress Report of 2021, USDA-NASS kicked off the crop monitoring year, indicating the early steps of corn and cotton planting, as well as the disparity between current winter wheat conditions in the Plains this year versus a year ago. The report also included topsoil and subsoil moisture levels for the country, indicating both are sharply lower than the same time in 2020, numbers that didn’t surprise meteorologists but do have some implications for the crop year’s start, especially in areas where conditions have been driest over the last year. Signs point to general improvements in areas where moisture has been shortest in the last year, namely because of the Southern Oscillation Index’s transition away from La Nina, but that process — and the rebuilding of soil moisture in places like North Dakota where it’s well short of normal — will take months. The soil moisture conditions to start the season will likely keep the weather focus sharp in those areas where it’s shortest. See more.