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Crops

Early planting likely across much of the U.S.

Written by Natasha Wheeler

“We could be looking at planting up to three weeks earlier this year than last year across much of the western Corn Belt,” noted Jeffrey Doran, senior business meteorologist at Plantalytics in an April 9 webcast.

The 2015 Planting and Early Season Outlook webcast reviewed conditions across the U.S. that could affect crops this year, including areas of drought, excessive moisture, severe weather events and more.

Moisture

“Looking at precipitation, it is really a case of the haves versus the have-nots,” commented Doran.

Although areas of the Corn and Wheat Belts have only received 10 to 20 percent of normal moisture this year, there has been excessive moisture from southern Texas, across the Mississippi Delta and up into the Ohio Valley.

“Western California is really in trouble,” he added. “Not only are rain totals down, but snowpack is way down, and reservoir levels are at the lowest that they have been in decades.”

The governor of California has recently imposed a 25 percent water use restriction across the state.

“We continue to be concerned about California and the agriculture out there,” he said.

Dry conditions in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and parts of Nebraska are also concerning.

“This is now the fourth straight year of less-than-average snowpack across the West. It really has provided an accumulative effect,” he continued.

Further east, too much moisture may become a concern.

“From east Texas all the way up to the Ohio Valley, there are many rivers above flood stage, and that trend will likely continue in the short term,” he explained.

Soil temperature

Doran also discussed increasing soil temperatures, indicating the approach of the planting season.

“Typically, we want to see values 50 degrees or above when we start to get corn planted. That 50 degree line is extending north, up into South Dakota,” he said.

Warmer soil temperatures include southern Iowa, Illinois and southern Indiana as well.

“We will continue to track soil temperature, but we are starting to see some real rapid progress,” commented Doran.

Soil temperatures have been warmer this season than in the past two seasons for this time of the year, although they are not as warm as a record-setting 2012.

“2012 was a fantastic planting season. Everything was planted early, and it ended up being the warmest spring in 120 years,” he stated.

Meteorologists will continue to monitor soil temps, as it is still too early in the season to tell how warm this season will become in comparison to that year.

Weather events

“Outbreak of severe weather is something we certainly continue to watch,” Doran then noted.

The year has started off slowly in terms of severe weather events, but there has been an increase in the last few weeks.

“We are really starting to see the dynamics setting themselves up for more intensity and more episodes of severe weather,” he commented.

Severe weather can include events such as tornadoes, large hail, damaging winds, fires and flooding.

“Severe weather can happen at this time of year basically anywhere,” he continued. “We will continue to track this through our daily report, and we will continue to assess the situation.”

El Niño

The next topic that Doran covered was ocean surface temperatures.

“Everything starts with the oceans. We understand the strong linkage between the oceans and the atmosphere,” he explained.

Current patterns indicate the possibility of an El Niño season, although the phenomenon hasn’t been officially recognized yet this year.

“There are very strict definitions for what determines an El Niño, but we have been seeing some El Niño-like influences,” Doran commented.

Sea surfaces are currently in a warm temperature pattern, and an El Niño can be recognized if there are at least five months of three-month averages above one-half a degree Celsius over normal.

“We are very close to actually recognizing that, and it is another thing that we will be tracking fairly closely as it could have an impact on the growing season ahead,” Doran said.

Wild card

Another factor that may have an effect on the upcoming planting season is the recent eruption of a volcano in Kamchatka, Russia.

“We know, historically, that if there is enough particulate matter in the atmosphere, it can change weather patterns,” noted Doran. “It is too premature to understand the total impact of this wild card, other than there are different scenarios we are aware could happen.”

So far, weather condition and planting predictions have remained fairly stable for 2015.

Early planting is predicted for most of the U.S., except for areas of the Southeast where there may be planting delays and even possible replanting.

“Despite some of the challenges in the South, we are actually suggesting that it could be a very similar or even earlier planting than last year,” stated Doran. “We are feeling very good about an early start in many areas.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..