First and most obvious in assessment might be how much erosion of
surface nutrients may have occurred. Precipitation types and
frequency influence nutrient levels in soil. Numerous heavy rains or
rapid snow melts may have carried or leached nutrients away from the
field, particularly fall applications of potash or readily available
forms of nitrogen.
Then there is the influence of moisture conditions in a soil. A
droughted soil will have more and less of various macronutrients and
micronutrients creating limiting factors to this year's yields.
To reach maximum yields in corn and soybeans it requires the right
type, amount and time of application of the major nutrients -
nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Highest yields can be found by
breaking the 'limiting factor,' balancing macronutrients and
The level of moisture in the soil matters. For example, the balance
between macro and micronutrients shifts with moisture levels. Risks
of damages from parasitic nematodes increases in droughted soils.
The farmer who knows his field's soils by soil testing, plant
assessment and intuition, and tracks weather influences, is most apt
to acquire maximum yield to lower cost input for higher profits.
All that said, here is your winter weather review and season
Any meteorologist worth his salt will tell you that any forecast out
beyond 3 days is just a stab in the dark, and is likely to change as
weather systems form up and more information comes in.
Attempting to forecast for the entire growing season is mere
speculation, perhaps based in some previous pattern, but is likely
to be purely speculative.
Before presenting a speculative forecast about the upcoming growing
season, LDN presents a review of the weather in the Midwest from the
recent past according to the Midwest
Regional Climate Center:
Major Midwestern cities, including Indianapolis, IN, Des Moines, IA,
St. Louis, MO, Cleveland, OH and Milwaukee, WI had their warmest
February on record. In addition, thousands of daily highest maximum
and highest minimum temperature records were broken in the region
(Figure 2). Many monthly records for warmest one-day February
temperature were also broken, sometimes on multiple occasions,
between the dates of February 17-23. Maximum temperatures in the 60s
and 70s were common across a majority of the region during the
stretch of record warmth.
Dry to the south, wet to the north
Very dry conditions were common across Missouri, Illinois, Indiana
and Kentucky, while wetter conditions were common across northern
Iowa, Wisconsin, Northern Minnesota and the U.P. of Michigan in
February (Figure 3). Overall, the Midwest had 1.25 inches of
precipitation, which was about 70 percent of the normal amount.
Missouri and Illinois ranked among the 10 driest years on record
(1895-2017), while Indiana and Kentucky received only around half
the normal amount.
Snowfall in the region was lower than normal across most of the
region. A snowstorm on February 23-24 brought the only significant
amount of snowfall to Iowa and southern Minnesota. The only other
areas with near- to above-normal snowfall were in extreme northern
Minnesota and the U.P. of Michigan. Most of Kentucky and Missouri
received no snowfall in February.
Warm and not very snowy
The winter season was warmer than normal across the entire Midwest.
The December through February temperature of 29.6°F ranked among the
ten warmest on record. Most of this warmth occurred in January and
February. Milwaukee, WI tied its warmest January through February on
record. Precipitation was near normal for the region at 5.83 inches.
Areas of northern Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota received more than
one and a half times the normal amount of precipitation. However,
less than half the normal amount fell in Missouri and most of
Illinois, with some areas receiving less than a quarter of normal.
Snowfall was also sparse during the winter, with most of southern
Iowa, Missouri, southern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky
receiving less than a quarter of the normal amount. Near- to
above-normal snowfall fell across most of Wisconsin, Minnesota,
northern Iowa and Michigan.
[to top of second column]
Drought increases in Missouri
While moderate drought decreased in Missouri during January, a dry
month contributed to an increase of moderate drought coverage in
February. While less than 10 percent of the state was in drought at
the beginning of the month, nearly two-thirds of the state was in
moderate drought at the end. Outside of Missouri, only a small part
of west-central Illinois was in drought during February.
Severe weather and deadly tornadoes
Several days of convective severe weather occurred in the Midwest in
February. While most of the reports occurred in the last week of
February, an EF-0 tornado occurred near Cadiz, KY on February 8.
Scattered wind and hail reports were common on February 24 in
Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. A significant severe weather
event occurred during the evening and overnight hours of February
28. Hundreds of wind, hail and tornado reports were reported.
Tornadoes in Illinois and Missouri killed four people. These were
the first tornado fatalities in the Midwest since April 2015.
A chart from the
Illinois State Climatologist shows most of Logan County as the
northern edge of Illinois counties that are abnormally dry for this
time of year. The state climatologist is reluctant to cite that
Illinois is experiencing drought conditions because “the demand on
water supplies and soil moisture are very low in winter. In an
average winter, we have more than enough water to satisfy demand –
in many cases too much water. As a result of low water demand, the
impacts of below-normal precipitation on water supplies, navigation,
and agriculture are harder to find in winter.”
The Illinois State Climatologist cites that “Soil moisture looks
fine in our
Water Survey network. However, the last USDA NASS report
at the end of February showed drier soils in parts of western and
southwestern Illinois, but that was before the recent round of
rains. If it remains dry over the next two to three months, we will
start to see impacts on agriculture. But that’s true of any spring.”
When considering the long range forecast for the upcoming
growing season, there is no better resource than the
Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Just for the record, so far the Old Farmer’s Almanac (OFA) got the
forecast right: “Winter will be warmer than normal, with
above-normal precipitation. The coldest periods will be in late
December and early to mid-January and from mid-January into early
OFA missed it on the snowfall forecast for Illinois: “Snowfall will
be above normal in Illinois and below normal elsewhere, with the
snowiest periods in mid-November, late December, early and late
January, mid-February, and early March.”
Looking ahead, OFA says “April and May will be warmer and slightly
drier than normal.” This might have an impact on agriculture in
OFA says “Summer will be slightly cooler and rainier than normal.
The hottest period will be in mid-July, with other hot periods in
early July and mid- to late August. September and October will be
wetter and slightly cooler than normal.”
We may not always like what they forecast, and we may not always
find that they are correct, but their projected forecast is generic
enough that they have a better than 50% chance of being right.