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Chill lingering through spring, says forecaster

Jeff Caldwell 02/25/2014 @ 11:36am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The calendar may have you pacing the floor and looking ahead to getting some work done in the field, but don't put away the long johns just yet. And definitely don't get in too big a hurry with spring fieldwork, according to a recent spring outlook.

The winter of 2013-2014 will go down as one of the coldest and -- in some locations -- snowiest winters in decades in much of the Central and Eastern U.S. Now, as spring planting nears in the Corn Belt, there's reason to believe many farmers may face cool, damp conditions that made corn- and soybean-planting something of a slog in 2013.

"The spring outlook remains a cool-dominated one for much of the western Midwest, Northern Plains, and Canadian Prairies," says Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group, LLC. "This still poses the most significant risk for planting issues this season, as soil temperatures may take longer to warm adequately for fieldwork."

Though the lingering cool temperatures may be the last thing you want to experience this spring, they will be accompanied by ample moisture. Though that's not the best news when it comes to getting this year's crops planted, it's good news for farmers in areas where there's still a shortage of soil moisture after a dry couple of years. And it might leave an early planting window open to get some critical work done.

"The pattern does not look particularly wet for the western Midwest, and this should still allow corn and soybeans to be seeded after a slow start," Rogers says. "In fact, a wetter forecast trend in the western Midwest in May would largely be welcome to replenish low moisture reserves ahead of summer."

That moisture won't be welcome everywhere, though. Rogers says deeper into spring, it could delay some of the nation's spring wheat planting: "The May outlook has shifted wetter for the northern Plains and near the Canadian border, suggesting that spring wheat seeding in these areas could struggle more notably through the spring," he adds.

"The bottom line is that a cool spring will result in a slow start to the planting season for the Northern Plains, Canadian Prairies, and western Midwest, although the most notable possible concerns seem to focus on northern Plains spring wheat. Wetness for Delta soft wheat may raise disease risks, while lingering moisture deficits are still a concern for western Plains hard red winter wheat despite occasional spring showers," Rogers says.

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