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Cool Temperatures Ahead

Kacey Birchmier Updated: 03/26/2014 @ 11:28am I grew up on a fourth-generation farm in central Iowa. Follow me on twitter - @KaceyBirchmier.

Below-normal temperatures are expected to return to the Midwest and East this weekend. Not the start to spring growers were hoping to see. The cool, wet soils won’t allow farmers to do much fieldwork anytime soon.

And we’re in a cycle that could be difficult to break. “Cold soils dry out slowly, and wet soils warm up slowly,” says Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Extension corn agronomist. “When they’re cold, they can’t really get dry.”
According to NOAA’s spring outlook released this week, below-normal temperatures this spring are favored for an area from Montana eastward across the northern Plains to the Great Lakes region.

“The concern is it has been cold, it’s staying cold, and the soil temperatures aren’t going up very much,” says Nafzinger.

“These things can change pretty quickly. It can be an unexpectedly warm and dry for a week, and a lot can change in that time,” says Nafzinger. Realistically, however, the soils won't be ready to plant until the soil temperatures warm to 50°F., he adds.

Nafziger expects it to take some time to get the soil into shape for spring planting. Click on the links below to see daily soil temperatures for those states.

Once the soils are warm enough for fieldwork, it will be critical to pay attention to soil moisture. “Watch for soil moisture, and be careful not to enter the field if the drainage tiles are still running, which means the soil is above field capacity,” says Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Iowa State University agronomist.

Entering the field when it's too wet can cause problems such as soil compaction and formation of a poor seedbed.

“What happens during the season is typically more important than what happens at this end of the season,” says Nafziger.

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