Spring 2020 not as wet as last year for planting - thank goodness

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Planting is ahead of last year thanks to a window of dry weather has allowed farmers to work land across the state.

As producers hit the field this spring, they can't help but think back to how wet spring 2019 was — the wettest in 125 years of record keeping. 

“Just a reminder of what last year brought us — we had the bookends, did we not? We had flooding over many areas, record prevented planting acreage by a long ways, almost 20 million acres and then at the end of the season snow complicated harvest," said DTN meterologist Bryce Anderson in his 2020 Ag Weather Outlook. "Both ends of the spectrum hit us really hard.”

The biggest take away for this spring is "we’re not going to have the loss of acreage nearly like we did a year ago," Anderson said. 

East of the Mississippi temperature conditions from late November to late February were above normal to much above normal. 

“This has allowed maybe a little bit of that soil moisture to move out of the soil profile, at least to some extent,” said Anderson. 

In Wisconsin, for the week ending May 10, topsoil moisture was at 76% adequate and subsoil moisture at 82% adequate, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report. 

There was also less snow coverage this year, which means the crop weather scenario won’t be quite as challenging as last year, according to Anderson.

Producers are 24 days ahead of last year in planting corn and soybeans, according to NASS, a clear indication of a more favorable weather scene compared to last year's soggy conditions.  

With Pacific Ocean temperatures neutral, El Nino, or La Nina are not going to be a part of things for farmers this year, which means non-threatening to crops during the growing season," said Anderson. "That’s a real big feature for how the rest of the year is going to play out.”

According to Anderson, the NOAA 90-day forecast does keep some precipitation around, along with keeping things on the cooler side in the northern states. 

Those cooler temperatures and resulting lack of development of crops kept the cold snap at the beginning of May from being not quite as damaging. 

"Crops are are just coming out of the ground now. And so because of that kind of a lack of development, that probably held off on on any damage from that chill that we had," Anderson told the Wisconsin State Farmer.

With freeze warnings in effect for much of Wisconsin in early May, Anderson expects crop development will slow down. 

"The ground has cooled down and so it's gonna it's going take time to get to moderate temperatures and warm the ground back up to where crops can get going again," Anderson explained. 

In the northern Midwest, there is still an area for above average precipitation chances, "so there’s not just a complete turnaround to a drier spring by any means," Anderson said. "But it’s not quite as dire with as large an area in line to have the above normal precipitation with those higher percentage chance values as we saw a year ago."

As the planting window for crops grows smaller, many farmers are beginning to ask questions about delayed or prevent planting.

In Wisconsin precipitation has definitely been less than last year and in some spots a slightly below normal. Since the first of March, Eau Claire has had a deficit in precipitation with 4.3 inches, a little over an inch below normal, and a little more than 5 inches total for the year, which is just over 2 inches below normal, Anderson said. LaCrosse's precipitation is falling short of the average, with 4.5 inches since March 1, nearly 2 inches below normal and 6 inches for the year, 2 inches below normal. Madison is also about an inch below normal for precipitation this year. Statewide precipitation this year has been about a quarter of an inch to more than 2 to almost 3 inches less precipitation than Wisconsin had a year ago. 

"There is no doubt about it, the weather trends have been very favorable for getting field work done over quite a few areas," said Anderson. 

Summer forecast

DTN is forecasting temperatures for June, July and August to be near normal, maybe a little bit lower than normal in the far north.

"The conditions on temperatures are showing to us a stronger likelihood of being normal," Anderson said in his Ag Outlook.

May and June hold some potential of "higher prospects for some above normal precipitation through the growing season for the northern areas of the country from Sioux Falls,South Dakota, east to Rochester, Minnesota, and angling toward Chicago, Illinois.

"That’s the real wet area potential in our view for this growing season," added Anderson.

Crop season prospects

For the northern areas of the country there is still a lot of snow, wet ground and flood potential this spring, Anderson noted during his Ag Outlook.

The central western portion of the corn belt, which includes southwest Wisconsin will see a reduced flood threat, which Anderson sees as a "big feature."

"I’m not saying things are going to turn completely dry, but there is going to be a better scenario for getting field work done this season than last year when we know there were all sorts of extensive delays in getting  crops in the ground," said Anderson.