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Weather likely to stall spring planting across the Midwest

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. — The wet and chilly weather pattern in place across the Midwest is going to continue into the middle of April, according to

“A parade of storms, moving into the Pacific Northwest, have crossed the Rockies, emerged into the Plains, then moved east across the heart of the Midwest,” Evan Duffey, AccuWeather long-range meteorologist, explained. “These storms are moving east, along the boundary between spring warmth to the south, and lingering winter cold across the north.”

The result has been below-normal temperatures, near and north of the storm track, along with above-normal amounts of rain and snow, he said.

“Topsoil levels in many areas are too moist to allow much fieldwork to take place and soil temperatures are too low to allow initial corn planting operations to begin. The front end of the corn planting season will be delayed by at least one to two weeks in many areas from Missouri to Kentucky and southern Ohio.

“This storm track is expected to shift north and weaken some later in April,” he added. “This will result in warmer weather and less frequent rains the second half of the month over the southern half of the Midwest, allowing corn and soybean planting to make better progress.”

For many states, the April 2 crop and weather report was the first weekly report of the 2018 growing season. In Illinois, colder temperatures and rain were reported throughout the state.

“There were 1.1 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending April 1,” the state’s April 2 report read. “The average temperature was 41.9 degrees, 4.9 degrees below normal,” with precipitation averaging 1.71 inches, 0.79 inch above normal.

In Indiana, cool temperatures and steady precipitation for the greater part of the week ending April 1 left fields saturated. “Gloomy weather conditions prevailed across the state. Precipitation amounts in different parts of the state ranged from 0.35 inch to 3.71 inches over the week,” with only one suitable day for fieldwork.

In Iowa, a cold, wet week prevented fieldwork across most of the state during the week ending April 1, with less than a day suitable for fieldwork statewide.

“The cool, wet weather has kept farmers out of the field and created challenges for cow-calf producers who are in the midst of calving,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig in the April 2 Iowa Crop & Weather report. “It looks like this weather pattern could stay in place and continue to prevent farmers from getting a start on spring fieldwork.”

In Kentucky, persistent rainfall and cool temperatures statewide for the week ending April 1 have also kept farmers from working the fields.

“The ground is saturated in many areas, with some ponding reported in low-lying fields,” the state’s April 2 report read. “There was very little freeze damage reported for winter wheat and the crop is in mostly good condition at this time.”

In Michigan, the ground was still frozen in the northern parts of the state, while cool, wet soil conditions kept some producers out of their fields in many southern locations,” with only 2.4 suitable days for fieldwork, the state’s April 2 report read. “Winter wheat was coming out of dormancy in some areas, but in other areas, it had yet to show signs of greening.”

In Ohio, colder-than-normal temperatures kept pastures and crops behind typical progress: “A wintry mix of rain and snow blanketed the state starting mid-week and resulted in higher-than-normal levels of precipitation and saturated fields,” with less than one suitable day for fieldwork.

In Tennessee, the state’s April 2 report said: “Unrelenting rains and the resulting soaked soil kept producers out of the field, allowing only 2.3 days suitable for fieldwork.”

“We are a couple of weeks behind normal in corn planting,” said Kenny Herndon, Carroll County, Tenn., extension agent. “Wheat has begun to grow at a rapid rate. Pastures have begun to green up.”

However, the biggest challenge might be finding good planting days in the early part of the best planting windows, said Clarke McGrath, Iowa State University agronomist and extension and on-farm research coordinator for ISU’s Iowa Soybean Research Center.

“There isn’t much (farmers) can do now,” he explained. “The planters are ready to go, seed is ready and we can adjust chemical programs around most scenarios, so the prep is pretty much done. It is just a matter of waiting on fit planting weather.

“If the weather doesn’t cooperate as we get into the later part of the corn planting window – and if the bean market settles down and farmers don’t have nitrogen or corn chemicals applied to a few fields where they were thinking about corn – we could see some acres swing back to beans.”

Overall, temperatures in the second half of April are likely to average near-normal over the southern half of the Midwest, with rainfall near-to-slightly above-normal, Duffey said.

“The northern half of the Midwest is likely to see temps near to below normal the second half of April, with precipitation above normal,” he addded. “Early May is likely to bring near- to above-normal temps across the Midwest with near-normal rainfall.

“The warmer weather should allow the crops to germinate and grow at a normal pace, but there may be still just enough rain to keep planting progress a week or so behind what is normal.”