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Late planting not necessarily panic time

By Staff | May 4, 2018

The 2018 planting season is off to a fast start for many, like this producer planting in Elm Grove Township between Lake City and Yetter in Calhoun County on April 30. Some parts of the state were still waiting for conditions to improve as of earlier this week.



“Dramatic and eventful” are words used by DTN Meteorologist Bryce Anderson to describe the weather of this past winter.

But in winter’s wake, he said the planting delays it is causing do not necessarily spell trouble for grain producers.

“This looks to be the slowest start to field work that we’ve had in probably four years,” said Anderson, adding that in some parts of the U.S., field work is already underway.

He said corn planting in the nation is only 5 percent finished, and typically it is 15 percent completed by mid- to late-April. When planting delays occurred due to weather in 2014, record crops were still grown – with 171 bu/acre corn and 14.3 billion bushels produced, and 47.8 bu/acre soybeans, with 3.97 billion bushels produced.

“A slow spring does not necessarily lead to difficulty in crop production,” Anderson said. “Back then, we had mild (near to below normal) temperatures from June 1 through Aug. 31, and those cooler temperatures allowed crops to fill and do their work.”

He added trend line yields in both corn and soybeans are possible this year, but above that is uncertain.

What’s happening?

According to Anderson, the Pacific Ocean is moving (as expected) away from La Nina and toward neutral weather patterns, and is expected to remain there throughout the growing season. La Nina was the dominant pattern throughout the winter and had a big influence on it, as well as how the spring has shaped up, with colder temperatures descending farther south.

A development in the high latitudes around the Arctic Circle – featuring high pressure-blocking tendencies – have complicated and added to the circumstances happening now. Anderson said high pressure ridges had set up around the Alaska/Siberia area in the western part of the world, with another round of high pressure ridges setting up around the northern Atlantic, specifically Greenland and Iceland.

“The combination of those areas of high pressure was profound in terms of keeping things as cold as they were for much of the north central part of the country during the first part of April,” he said.

The high pressure that developed over Alaska and Siberia shut off any flow out of the Pacific Ocean and into the interior part of North America. Typically, he said, when there is a Pacific flow, there are milder conditions.

“At the same time, those areas of high pressure over the north Atlantic forced colder air out of the polar regions and further south, so (that) combined with the still-in-effect La Nina influence,” Anderson said. “The effect of all of that was that we had a darned cold scenario to finish out the winter and into spring.”

He said the last time the spring was this cold was the spring of 2014. Temperatures within the first two weeks in April around the Midwest have been 20 degrees below average.

“This is off the charts,” he said. “It’s quite likely there will be an all-time record keeping-era record cold during the month of April.”

Anderson said water temperatures in the Pacific and around the International Date Line are warming, so the colder temperatures are gradually easing. Weather patterns are leaning towards an El Nino by fall, bringing some warmth with it.

Soil temperatures north of Interstate 80 (including Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin) have been slow to warm up, coming in at 35 degrees Fahrenheit or less, as of April 24, according to Anderson. Indicators show that the soil is slowly beginning to warm.

Anderson expects producers to experience much of the same kind of weather this growing season as in 2014 and added, “… we will need every advantage the temperatures can give us throughout the growing season – (to promote) fill stage and with pollination, with as late as things are getting started this year.”

The short-term precipitation outlook for the Midwest is calling for only small amounts of rain, which Anderson said will help dry things out and allow for field work to begin. He added that an early frost date is not predicted, with nothing in the works indicating that will occur.

Drought areas

While much of the nation will experience favorable growing conditions this year, Anderson said indicators show that the southern Plains – currently experiencing wildfires and loss of livestock – will continue to be in an extreme to exceptional drought pattern. That zone runs from Wichita, Kansas, west through parts of Colorado, all of the Oklahoma panhandle and half of the Texas panhandle, and on to the four corners.

He expects that to upgrade at some point to a moderate to severe level at best.

Anderson added parts of south central Brazil are experiencing drier conditions, and there may not be as much corn coming out of there because of it.

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