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The 2017 Planting Outlook Looks Ideal

For those in the Midwest and Corn Belt, planting is still a ways away but the forecast is looking quite favorable.

“I think we can expect the spring to be pretty ideal,” says Dale Mohler of Accuweather. 

In the Midwest, early March temperatures will likely be colder than normal, but the second half of March should bring warmer-than-average temperatures. Like this month, Mohler anticipates March will bring normal moisture or be a bit wetter than usual.

Planting season is just around the corner for states like Mississippi, Texas, and Arkansas. Besides a dry area covering some of southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, and a bit of Texas, Mohler thinks planting conditions are looking great.

“The outlook is pretty good there,” says Mohler. “I think they’ll be in pretty good shape going into planting in March.”

So far this year, those Southern areas have been getting regular rains without being flooded. They’ve seen breaks between storms that Mohler says has put those regions in a good spot for planting. The next couple weeks should bring temperatures that are several degrees above normal and timely rains. 

The Risk

Residual energy from the winter season might trigger a more intense severe weather season in 2017. That could mean more tornadoes, hail, or maybe just significant wind.

“We’re thinking that the severe weather season could be a little big stronger this year,” says Mohler. “But I think a lot of that might be before the crop is really emerged very much.” Mohler is hopeful that the severe weather will have settled down by May and especially by June. 

As of now, Mohler thinks the severe weather would impact “the heart of the country,” meaning the eastern Plains, Mississippi Valley, and the lower Great Lakes area in the Midwest. If he had to pick a city that the risk will be centered around, he’d say St. Louis. 

This Warm Spell and What’s Next

Even with the unseasonably warm temperatures much of the Midwest has experienced lately, fall applications shouldn’t have had the right conditions for biological activity to start up prematurely. With frost in the ground and cold overnight temperatures, N should still be in ammonium form.

“Most soils that are at the moment defrosting are at saturated conditions, which are not conducive for nitrification,” says Fabián Fernández of the University of Minnesota. “If any biological activity has started, it would have no measurable impact or any kind of negative consequence on N that was applied last fall.”

If this warm weather were to continue and we got a pretty wet spring, then growers should be concerned about some serious N loss. Luckily, concerned farmers have little to worry about as temperatures will gradually drop down to below-normal range after the coming balmy weekend. 

Although these next nine days or so should bring quite mild weather to the Corn Belt and Midwest, states like Ohio and Michigan might experience a lingering chill. A slow moving storm will set in on Sunday night and last into Monday on the far west side of the Belt bringing 0.5 to 1 inch of rain. That same storm will hit the northern part of eastern side of the Belt on Tuesday night into Wednesday, according to Mohler.

The end of February will bring a storm that will throw 0.75 to 1.5 inches of rain and snow at most of the Midwest. Growers can expect to see that storm on February 27 or 28, Mohler says.

What About El Niño?

Although some weather models are showing that El Niño may become active earlier, the folks at Accuweather are pretty convinced that if El Niño presents itself this year, it won’t be until June, July, or even August — well into the growing season.

If it comes, El Niño will likely mean increased rainfall for Southern states.

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