Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Tough Spring for Farmers

Warm weather in March last year helped farmers get an early start to planting, but expanding drought impacted crops throughout the summer. This year, unusual cold and wet weather is delaying planting and likely damaging some crops. It's already a tough year for farmers (and gardeners, too) and we're just getting started.

As of Monday, April 21 only 4 percent of the corn crop was planted, with most of it in Texas and North Carolina. That's compared to a five-year average of 16 percent - last year it was 26 percent. In the Corn Belt states of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, little corn has been planted (1 percent in Illinois and Indiana, nothing in Iowa), compared to about 50 percent planted last year. With the tremendous amount of rain in the past week soils are saturated and it will be at least another week to 10 days before fields dry out enough to work, providing there isn't any more heavy rain. For those areas near flooding rivers it will be even longer.


The cold weather is taking its toll as well. It has been unseasonable cold all week, and today was another record cold morning across the central U.S.  Amarillo, Texas dropped to 20°F this morning, shattering the old record of 32°F set in 1913 and again in 1958. Temperatures were in the upper teens to mid 20s across most of the Plains this morning. This is the major growing area for hard red winter wheat, and there was likely some damage to the crop especially in the southernmost states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas where crop development is further along. After coping with drought last year and over the winter, wheat farmers may have taken another hit from the cold weather.

Minimum temperatures as of 7:00 a.m. CDT April 24

Of course, the drought still persists through much of that same area, and even with some improvement in the next few months there will still be lingering effects from the long term dryness.

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