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Crop country's in the cooler

Jeff Caldwell 03/25/2013 @ 9:34am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The calendar says it's almost corn-planting time. But Mother Nature's got other ideas.

Temperatures are well below normal to start the week in the northern Corn Belt down to south Texas, where there's already corn in the ground . . . corn that could fall victim to freeze or frost damage.

On Sunday, National Weather Service officials in the Houston/Galveston and Austin/San Antonio, Texas, offices issued freeze warnings for much of eastern Texas, adding that temperatures could fall as low as the 20s through Tuesday when warmer temperatures are expected to return. So, will the cold snap damage crops already in the ground?

"With the freeze area of concern being clear down to San Angelo from a line due west of Dallas-Fort Worth, wheat could be growing there," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk senior contributor c-x-1. "And, of course, the corn will probably have to start over."

Adds Marketing Talk veteran contributor farmerguy89: "Any corn that has gotten hit by frost is basically set back a lot, probably as much as regular-planted corn. I mean, I have seen uber-early-planted corn take three or more weeks to come up. It will be a challenge for guys to manage frost-damaged corn adequately."

Southeast Texas isn't the only part of the state that's fighting lingering winter conditions; temperatures have been south of the freezing point in the western and northern parts of the state as well, and it's expected to last through Monday night, according to Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., senior meteorologist Harvey Freese.

"Early morning freezing temperatures were reported across parts of western Texas last night and freezing temperatures are reported around Dallas, Texas, this morning with lows in the upper 20s in parts of northern Texas," Freese says. "The forecast calls for freezing temperatures across northern Texas again tonight."

Though the low temperatures aren't yet a threat to crop potential in the Midwest, winter's grasp has yet to loosen farther north. In the Corn Belt, temperatures have trended between 5 and 7 degrees colder than normal. Though winter's been largely dry in parts of the nation's center, the Corn Belt's seen its share of moisture in the last month -- a silver lining to the cloud of a planting season that's not likely to begin anytime very soon.

"This March could become one of the top 10 coldest in some parts of the northern Corn Belt. The warming late this week may keep other areas out of the top 10 coldest for the month of March," Freese says. "The coldest March on record for Iowa was March of 1960 when the average statewide temperature was 6.8 degrees Fahrenheit below normal. The most recent memory of such a cold snowy March in Iowa was 1984."

   

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