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Early Planting Not Likely, Meteorologist Says

Meteorologist Dan Hicks of Freese-Notis Weather isn’t banking on the early fieldwork that some agronomists are forecasting. With above-normal soil moisture in much of the Corn Belt and rainfall moving into states from Missouri to Ohio, fields may be fairly wet for fieldwork in March and maybe even early April. 

“The thing that stands out to me the most right now is a potentially slow start to spring fieldwork and planting in parts of the Midwest as we get into April with enough wetness to keep things from picking up quickly in a lot of areas,” Hicks says. 

A fading El Niño is contributing to the amount of precipitation coming at the southeastern three-quarters of the Corn Belt in the next couple of weeks. El Niño is also the culprit behind the wet end to 2015 and warmer overall winter, but it will be making an exit in late spring or early summer.

Compared with last year’s extreme precipitation, this spring shouldn’t be so dramatic. Signs are pointing to a wetter overall spring, but not as detrimental. Currently, temperatures are also running warmer than last year at this time. 

An agronomist’s perspective

Dave Mowers, a consulting agronomist in Toulon, Illinois, found the winter to be helpful for conditioning the soil for potential early planting. 

“We’ve had freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw a number of times, and the soil appears to be just ideal for conditions,” says Mowers. 

He and his team at GMS Lab, Inc. & Aim for the Heartland, Inc. have been out taking soil samples already. Mowers has also seen farmers north of Peoria out in the fields applying ammonia and using their field cultivators. 

However, he’s wary of rains in the next week delaying fieldwork. 

Going forward 

Past data from springs following strong El Niño years show a wide variety of rainfall patterns, but some show wetter-than-normal conditions in the Midwest during spring. 

“What we don’t want to have is an extended wet, cold period of time. That’s what hurts everything,” Mowers says of planting early and then running into testy weather. 

As for the growing season? Stay tuned for La Niña to kick in during the second half of 2016.

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