Cooler, Wet Weather Takes Ongoing Toll On Area Crops

A grim picture is being painted for the 2019 agricultural season after record rainfall, flooding and cold this spring.

During Thursday’s Midwest and Great Plains Climate and Drought Outlook webinar Thursday, Montana State Climatologist Kelsey Jencso said weather conditions have had a significant impact on spring planting.

"Obviously, cold and wetness have delayed spring planting across the board," Jencso said. "As an example, corn plantings have been mostly finished, but in reality, a significant amount of the acreage went into the ground very recently, so there’s significant worry that corn won’t accumulate enough growing degree days to come to maturity and fruition."

At present, only 56% of South Dakota’s planted corn crop has emerged, a drop of 41% from the five-year national average.

Nebraska is faring better with 90% of the corn crop emerged, down 9% from the five-year average.

As for corn conditions through June 16, 57% of South Dakota’s crop is rated good to excellent (down 9% from last year), while 77% of Nebraska’s corn crop is rated good to excellent (down 9% from last year).

Soybeans are also seeing a tough spring. In South Dakota, 70% of the crop has been planted (down 28% from the five-year average) while Nebraska has seen 91% of the soybean crop planted (down 7% from the five-year average). As for progress, only 36% has emerged in South Dakota versus 73% of the planted crop in Nebraska.

Jencso said that some areas won’t even see planting.

"Multiple millions of acres are not going to be planted," he said. "This has contributed to uncertainty and a lot of stress amongst producers, in combination with the reduced crop prices that currently exists."

He said the wet conditions mean threats even for those crops that have been planted.

"Weeds are becoming a problem because of delays getting into the fields with sprayers," he said. "Because of increased moisture, there’s time for water to sit on the crops and keep them wet and increase disease potential. Crop diseases from ample moisture are becoming widespread. This is especially prevalent in winter wheat right now."

Jencso said this could be the norm for the remainder of the summer

"Crops are generally not in great condition, and they’re going to continue to struggle through the season unless we see some warmer conditions," he said.

He said only a small window for this kind of weather is predicted at the moment with the 8-14 day forecast showing high chances for above-average temperatures in eastern South Dakota. However, the northern plains is then forecast to revert back to the spring trends of above-average chances for precipitation and high chances for below-normal temperatures.

Dennis Todey of the Midwest Climate Hub in Ames, Iowa, said issues for crops will go beyond disease and weeds.

"People put crops in the ground, in many cases, when it was too wet, which leads to compaction," Todey said. "That compaction can be limiting to root development and emergence. The heavy rainfalls have caused crusting on the top of soil that has limited, sometimes, soybeans from being able to break through that."

He said there isn’t an overabundance of optimism towards the remainder of the season.

"We need some warmer temperatures, especially to push corn along," he said. "It looks like there will be some periods of warmth, but the overall outlooks don’t give us a lot of optimism towards helping push corn along to reach development by the end of the year. There’s going to be a lot of carryover issues that go on into the end of the year and there are some hints that the wetness could continue in the fall, which would just exacerbate the problems."

Despite it being the day before the official start of summer, Todey said some crops will not make it out of any conceivable freeze situation before they’re harvested.

"We need, at worst, near-average freeze conditions to allow this crop to develop as long as it can," he said. "If something early should come along, that would be very problematic. Even if it’s late, we’re still going to have some crops that have not reached maturity by that point."

Jencso said very few areas in the middle of the country came close to having a normal spring.

"As we all know, it was a record-breaking month across the high plains and Midwest, except in Montana and North Dakota," he said. "Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas experienced their wettest Mays ever. Similarly, the surrounding states experienced much-above average to above-average precipitation for the month."

He said this has led to ongoing problems across the Midwest.

"These precipitation totals contributed to significant flooding across the Missouri River, upper Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee Valley river systems."

Temperature-wise, May was much the same, with most Midwestern states recording a top-10 coldest May on record.

Jencso said the situation along the Missouri River system has vastly improved.

"The Missouri basin seems to have turned a corner," he said. "All of the locations along the Missouri River are below the ‘Major Flooding’ category. Most mountain locations in the upper Missouri or Yellowstone basins are at their crest or past their crest. Flooding in the plains has also subsided quite a bit with most of the tributaries now below flood stage. For the main stem of the Missouri, only minor or moderate flooding is occurring from Nebraska City to its junction with the Mississippi."

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