The start of the feed crop growing season has offered some surprises for producers, said Jim Angel, Illinois state climatologist. “It’s been one of the strangest starts to a growing season I’ve seen in Illinois,” he added.
Some farmers started work preparing fields in February only to face a drop in temperatures and increased precipitation, he said. “Soil moisture looks pretty good, we’re just waiting for things to dry out a little bit,” he added.
“March has been cooler and a little wetter [than February], and it’s put a halt to some field work that I’ve seen,” he told FeedNavigator. “About 1% of the corn crop has been planted and the five-year average is 5% so we’re in a holding pattern until it gets a little dryer.”
Several other states are also seeing planting start at a rate behind their five-year average, according to the crop progress report from the US Department of Agriculture. Those states include, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio.
However, it could be a while before dryer weather reaches some parts of the Corn Belt, or the Midwestern region known for feed crop production, said Angel.
“The farther out you go the more uncertain it is,” he said. “It could be one of those cases where in some places it won’t stop raining.”
However, with the transition into April there is an expectation to see wetter weather, he said. April, May and June can be some of the wettest months for the region.
“There’s a lot of rain to track through Iowa and Wisconsin and we’re on the southern edge of that, which is why northern Illinois has some of it,” said Angel. Southern Illinois, however should see more typical rainfall.
“Bottom line is we’ve not seen any eminent drought or eminent flooding,” he said. “There is nothing extraordinary on the horizon, which is good.”
However, one concern that has not materialized was the continuation of the La Nina cycle seen in the fall into the US feed crop growing season, said Angel. Instead, the pattern that had started to develop has faded.
“We are in the neutral phase right now,” he said. “That is expected to continue through the spring. There are some thoughts that we might see El Nino develop into the fall, but it’s a little early.”
The typical pattern for an El Nino cycle is to start in the late summer or early fall, strengthen in the winter and then fade during the spring, he said. For Midwestern feed crop producers it doesn’t always have much effect because it may not manifest during the growing season.
“If it did show up in the Midwest, we tend to have milder summers and tend to do okay on precipitation,” he said. “Really for us the worst case is getting La Nina – that tends to translate to hotter, dryer summer.”
However, one on-going change that has continued to develop for about the last century in the Midwest is a tendency toward wetter weather, said Angel. “There have been fewer of the big time droughts – not like what we [saw] in the 1930s or 1950s,” he said.
“We tend to be trending toward the wet side of things,” he said. “With more headaches with delayed planting and loss after planting than with drought.”
The change is also bringing an earlier start to spring, which may eventually translate into a longer growing season and allow for longer growing crop varieties, he said. “But your weeds and pests also have a longer growing season,” he added.
“That creep of species is interesting, if we have more mild winters – cold winters can hold back those invasive species – they’re better able to establish themselves,” he said.