Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the USDA Midwest Climate Hub are worried about how summer 2019 conditions will treat crops that are already behind the development time curve because of wet and cool weather.
In the NOAA North Central climate region, the month of May “was one for the record books,” according to Montana State Climatologist Kelsey Jencso, during a conference call. He noted that March through May average temperatures in the region that extends from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Allegheny Plateau in the east were mainly below- to much-below average. Accompanying that cool spring pattern, precipitation was “mainly much above average,” except for the state of North Dakota, which had a drier month.
Looking ahead to July, Jencso highlighted the June NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s forecast for central U.S. temperatures to have an elevated prospect of being below normal, while precipitation chances are elevated for above-normal amounts. “The odds are tilted toward this (cool and wet trend) continuing” in the Midwest and High Plains, he noted.
With that cool and wet forecast, Jencso listed characteristics and effects the region is likely to experience. They include: cold and wetness; delayed development; millions prevented planting acres; varied weed problems; disease from wet conditions; slow emergence of corn and soybeans; and crops that will likely struggle through the entire growing season.
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“There’s a strong connection at the (land) surface level in summer between wetter and cooler along with dry and warm,” noted USDA Midwest Climate Hub Director Dennis Todey. “When soils and surfaces are wet, it leads to evaporative cooling (interferes with prolonged heat buildup in the Midwest). That’s a big player.”
Todey noted some crop issues have already been developing. “The problem is that we’ve put a decent amount of seed in the ground that has ongoing issues,” he said. “There are fields where it’s either been too wet or is becoming too wet, causing soil compaction. This is limiting to root development and emergence. Heavy rain has caused crusting of soils. Ongoing wetness leads to disease. And, people (producers) have not been able to do weed control.”
Crop development and reproduction phases — corn pollination and soybean flowering — are on the minds of the experts with the July temperature forecast looking relatively cool. “We need warmer temperatures to push corn along,” Todey said. “The overall outlook doesn’t give a lot of optimism for corn to reach development by the end of the (crop) year.”
That means crops will be using every available growing degree day to go through the various production phases. But, that takes time, and climate experts are concerned that time may run out in the 2019 season.
“Don’t even mention early frost,” Todey said.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org