Farmers in the Midwest could be in for a slow start to the row-crop planting season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2018 spring forecast suggests.
The agency’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is calling for spring temperatures to run at or below normal over much of the Northern Plains and portions of the northern Midwest. In addition, above-normal precipitation is forecast from the Northern Plains southeast to the Ohio Valley.
“We’re going to see a sharp gradient between wetter conditions in the northern and eastern areas, and warmer and drier in the Southern Plains,” USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said during a conference call on Thursday. “The evidence points to a wetter spring in the northern reaches of the Midwest.”
Influencing the chance for the wetter spring is the residual impact of a declining La Nina Pacific Ocean temperature pattern. Water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are moving back toward normal following several months of below-normal conditions — indicating a La Nina event.
La Nina’s impact on U.S. spring weather patterns includes above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures in the Midwest — a cool and wet scenario.
“We expect the La Nina residual to extend into the April-May-June period,” said Jon Gottschalck, CPC head of forecast operations. “In addition, the longer-term precipitation trends are quite high for heavier amounts in the Northern Plains, the Midwest and the Northeast.”
USDA’s Rippey said it’s too early to say where and to what extent planting delays would occur, but they are possible. “I can’t come out and say that it’s as bad as 2008, but it’s something to watch,” Rippey said.
Crop history has seen varying results after wet springs, with both low-production and high-production results.
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“Even with the delays in recent years, we have still seen big crops, including this last year (2017), so it’s too early to get too excited about planting progress issues in March,” Rippey said.