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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Will Mother Nature Deliver A Nasty Temperature Surprise?


Is your seed corn in the bag?  In the ground?  Already germinated and emerging?  USDA’s Crop Progress Reports will begin next Monday and they will certainly reflect an early start to the planting season despite Extension crop specialists who are urging farmers to wait until the crop insurance planting dates.  Those are April 6 for Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio and April 11 for Iowa and Minnesota.  Despite the fact the early spring has been inviting planters to go through their paces; the weather folks say there is still plenty of time for plenty of weather.

Roger Elmore, corn agronomist for Iowa State University, leaves little doubt about what he thinks of early planting:  “…wait until at least the April 11 crop insurance date to plant corn!”  In his weekly newsletter, Elmore says, “Soil temperatures matched what we normally experience in late April and early May, jumping well ahead of previous records.”  But he is not a fan of what his constituents are doing in their corn fields, “Data from other scientists and Iowa planting date studies – suggests to plant corn after mid-April when soil temperatures are near 50 degrees Fahrenheit to maximize yield.”  Elmore says seed will readily absorb water at cool temperatures, but the soil temperature triggers the root and shoot growth, and a water-logged seed will invite insects and pathogens to interfere with the germination process.  “The odds for more cold weather and or snow are still high before mid-April. With that in mind, to minimize risk, begin planting when soils are 50 F or greater or are near 50 F and rising quickly after mid-April.”

Agreeing with the latter statement are the regional climatology staff members at the Midwestern Regional Climate Center at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS).  Their latest summary of the current weather indicates we have seen the warmest March on record, but “Despite the early warmth, climatology tells us that the possibility for a freeze in April remains high, putting early emerging crops and plants at risk.”  Subsequent to record warmth, the climatologists say this will be the earliest start for a growing season on record, “The earliest start of the growing season is the year (from 1981 to 2010) with the earliest date for the last spring freeze.  The earliest start to a growing season has occurred in late March across widespread portions of Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and southeast Iowa.  A majority of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio have not experienced a growing season that has started before April.”

The climatologists caution that “there is still a possibility for a 32-degree freeze to occur, or even a 28-degree “hard” freeze, which could kill plants that have emerged.”  They provide temperature maps for Midwestern states.


Recent temperatures have pushed many farmers to the field for an early start on planting, but agronomists have warned that the calendar says it is too early for corn planting.  They are joined by climate specialists who indicate there is plenty of time yet for cold temperatures this spring, which could damage young crops that are emerging.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 03/28 at 11:42 PM | Permalink

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