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Monday, March 19, 2018

Cool weather may delay spring planting


By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Another cool, late-blooming spring could have an impact on crops this year.

This year’s severe winter combined with another late-arriving spring has left soil temperatures especially cold, which could delay producers’ ability to get their crops planted at the ideal time.

According to MSU Extension agent Bruce Smith, May 1 is the normal start time for planting spring crops.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near yet,” Smith said. “We haven’t had as much sun as we need. The frost has come out of the ground, but the ground’s cold.”

The soil temperature needs to be at least 50 degrees at 3 inches deep for planting cereal grains, and even warmer for other crops, according to Smith. 

Planting when the ground is too cold makes the seed susceptible to fungal attacks and will cause it to “rot in the ground.” Smith added that even at the 50-degree threshold, producers had “better treat your seed” to protect it against fungal infections.

Late planting can cut into crop production if the full heat of summer arrives when plants are flowering. For example, with wheat planted in early May, the plants usually flower between the end of June and middle of July.

“If the weather gets hot quick, you start losing a lot of bushels per acre,” Smith said.

Producers faced the same situation last year. Although planting was delayed, crops largely flourished thanks to an unusually cool, wet summer that delayed the onset of extreme high temperatures well into August.

Smith said the ground could warm up “pretty good” and give producers a chance to plant on time if the weather would produce a stretch of 50-degree days with plenty of sunshine. 

However, he noted that to date even many of the warmer days have been accompanied by overcast skies and high winds, which conspire to keep ground temperatures down.

Despite a late arrival in warmer temperatures, Smith noted that the spring weather has been beneficial to producers in a couple of ways so far.

“There’s plenty of moisture out there, which that’s a good thing,” he said. “And nobody got nailed by a big snowstorm this year while they were calving, so that’s a good thing.”

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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