Early spring weather takes its toll on planting plans | TheFencePost.com

Early spring weather takes its toll on planting plans

Bill Jackson
Greeley, Colo.

It would appear ol’ man weather is going to take its toll on farmers again this year – even before crops start to mature.

Either it’s been too darn dry – in the case of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and eastern Colorado – or too darn wet in the case of the breadbasket of the nation.

While recent storms have eased drought conditions somewhat in eastern Colorado and helped extinguish Texas fires, heavy rains in central states starting in Oklahoma and moving northeast have already caused flooding and are altering many farmers’ planting plans, according to the USDA and AccuWeather.

The outbreak of tornadoes in the U.S. heartland has been historical and unbelievably destructive.

The weather and rising input costs are two things farmers have absolutely no control over, and farmers, more than any other industry in the nation, are dependent on weather to bring crops to maturity. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: Weather can destroy a good crop in about a heartbeat.

In Weld County, onions and sugar beets have or are being planted, but consistent winds have been a problem. Many of those farmers just hope they can get enough irrigation water on fields to keep the seeds in the ground. Replanting is not a pleasant thought, as the crop then lags, in addition to the added expense.

Dale Mohler is an agricultural meteorologist with AccuWeather. He said in a news release that repeated storms from Nebraska into Indiana were keeping farmers from planting this year’s corn crop. He said a significant part of that area received anywhere from 150 to 200 percent of average rainfall through April. That resulted in fields ranging from wet to saturated – you don’t plant anything in saturated fields with the possible exception of rice. At last check, there wasn’t much of that grown in the central U.S.

According to last week’s crop progress report from the Colorado office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the state got some precipitation along the Interstate 70 corridor and the state’s snowpack remains at record highs in the northern part of the state. But there’s little, if any, space to put any of the runoff from this spring’s snowpack. That means Nebraska will end up with a bunch of water it doesn’t need and has no place to put, so all of it will probably end up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the state’s wheat crop – about 49 percent – remains in poor to fair condition, while

33 percent is fair and 18 percent is either good or excellent (1 per- cent). Planting of sugar beets remains well behind average, while almost three-quarters of the state’s onion crop is in the ground.

AccuWeather’s Mohler, along with Jim Andrews, a senior meteorologist with the organization, said if the relentless weather continues in the Midwest through May and into June, there will be added issues for farmers, such as disease problems that can develop as the result of wet conditions.

But Andrews is also quick to point out that May typically brings a lot of sunshine, warmer temperatures and longer intervals of rain-free weather that boosts evaporation rates. Two years ago, the two noted in the news release, very wet conditions early in the spring resulted in delayed corn planting, but ideal conditions later that year led to one of the best corn crops on record. So a delay in planting does not necessarily relate to a poor crop.

However, current weather conditions sure as heck don’t lower the stress level.

Meanwhile, Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the USDA, said a fading La Nina in the Pacific is the cause for the erratic weather across the U.S. The result, he said in a news release, is warm, dry weather in the South and cool, wet conditions across northern states, so while the wet weather has delayed planting, the dry weather isn’t helping either, as farmers are waiting for moisture before planting rice and cotton in those southern states.

Just another one of those goofy weather years that farmers have to deal with now and then. They’d just prefer more of then and less of now.

Bill Jackson can be reached at (970) 392-4442.

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