Trying to successfully predict what a growing season will be like is akin to perfectly filling out a March Madness Bracket. The only difference is you could win a $1,000,000,000 if you have a perfect bracket. The area is already in the second week of March and April is only three weeks away. Thus far the weather has been schizophrenic with cold winning out. But we all know that can change tomorrow. So what are the prospects looking like for timely of planting spring crops? Maybe it’s better to ask if it matters as much as it used to and what is timely planting?
• As long as temperatures aren’t too out of whack, last year demonstrated area producers could grow excellent corn, grain sorghum and soybean crops even with late planting and cool spring temperatures. Remember it snowed the first week of May in 2013 and the area was cool through much of June. However the rains and late summer heat made up the difference. A spring similar to 2013 would be a problem if late summer were drier and/or cooler.
• While having corn planting wrapped up by the first of May is certainly desirable, not planting until mid-May isn’t the end of the world, especially for dryland farmers. The same thought applies to grain sorghum and soybeans. Corn and to a lesser extent grain sorghum development are purely driven by the accumulation of heat. The area is blessed with a long enough growing season with adequate temperatures so there is some wiggle room. Harvest may be later and wheat planting after summer row crops delayed but under most conditions good to excellent summer crops are still likely.
• With the advances in crop genetics through conventional breeding and genetic engineering todays summer crops, especially corn and soybeans, have vastly improved in their ability to withstand adverse conditions and produce excellent yields across a wide range of maturities. Later planting might result in producers scrambling to trade later maturing hybrids and varieties for earlier ones but the yield potential is still excellent.
• Providing the moisture is there, our irrigation is an option, adjusting cultural operations can help overcome late planting. This would involve items such as increasing plant populations and perhaps bumping up fertility rates.
• More important is the potential for rain and snow to attain/maintain adequate soil moisture. As of today, while soils aren’t bone dry, precipitation in the form of rain or snow is needed since we are in a slight to moderate drought. On the plus side, if forecasters are correct, an El Nino is supposed to be building, normally indicating above normal precipitation.
• The last 90 day forecast called for an equal chance of both above or below normal temperatures and precipitation. Many times but not always cooler spring temperatures are coupled with a precipitation and above normal with drier conditions. Most producers will take cool and wet over warm and dry for spring weather.