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March 26, 2013

Spring Weather Looks More Like Winter Weather!

The early spring weather thus far in 2013 has been exactly opposite of last year when late March temperatures across the Midwest set all-time record highs. This spring, the pattern has been for temperatures to be much below normal and there does not appear to be a significant break in the pattern any time soon. It is still too early to be really concerned about these cold temperatures, but if the pattern does not change within about ten days or so, then I would start getting concerned.

The spring weather is problematic all across the Midwest from North Dakota to the lower Ohio River Valley. Residents along the Red River in eastern North Dakota have already been warned that the spring snow melt could once again result in severe flooding in the region. In the southern Midwest, a weekend storm resulted in heavy snow from Colorado through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. After weeks of below normal temperatures in the Midwest, the daytime highs may finally reach more normal levels by the end of the week.

With this type of weather, the chances for an early spring are long gone of course and now I would put the odds at having a normal planting season at maybe 50-50. If this pattern does not moderate by the 10th of April, then we can say that spring planting may occur outside the normal planting window. It is always good to remember though that the U.S. crops can be planted very quickly given good conditions. Half of the U.S. corn crop could be planted in a one week period if the conditions are suitable.

There is no need for farmers to rush out and plant corn on the first nice day because corn seed needs a soil temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit at the four inch depth in order for the seed to germinate. The worse scenario for early planted corn would be if the weather turns cold and wet right after planting. If that happens, there is a high probability that the seed will rot and the field would need to be replanted. Even if the field is not replanted, the plant population will probably be reduced by the cold and wet conditions increasing the possibility of a disappointing corn yield.

If we end up planting the corn later than normal, the consequences generally include fewer corn acres than anticipated, pollination being pushed back to a hotter time of the summer, generally lower yields, and a chance the crop may not mature before the first frost. Having said that, I must also add that the impact of late planting is not at all certain. Last spring, the U.S. corn crop was planted at a record pace yet we ended up with an extremely low corn yield. In fact, during the last two summers in Argentina, the later planted corn performed better than the earlier planted corn. Generally, the earlier planted corn out performs the later planted corn, but the final outcome depends on the summer weather.