Spring 2017 Logan County
Farm Outlook Magazine

and panning for gold in the 2017 growing season
By  Jim and Jan Youngquist

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[April 01, 2017]  Why would a farmer consider what weather has done since last fall?

Well, primarily it would be to assess what impact precipitation may have had on soil conditions and nutrient availability. Then to decide early input actions - fertilizer and possibly the seed variety.

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 micronutrients.

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 forecast:

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.

Below-normal snowfall

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 winter

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.

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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 February.”

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 Central Illinois.

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.


Read all the articles in our new
Spring 2017 Logan County
Farm Outlook Magazine

2016 featured record soybean yields and decreasing incomes 4
The conundrum of corn 7
The prospect of higher ag prices 11
Price increase for US feed forecast 14
A suspicious character in town:  Bacterial Leaf Streak 17
Why some central Illinois farmers are giving cover crops a try 20
John Fulton to retire after a productive career helping others 24
Weather...and panning for gold in the 2017 growing season 33
2016 County Crop Yields Released 40

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