Northeast Michigan field crop regional report – April 24, 2014

Cool, wet weather is delaying spring field work and slowing development of the wheat crop across Northeast Michigan.


The first month of spring has felt more like late winter in Northeast Michigan with cool, moist conditions persisting across the region. Fields have been quiet as a result and growers are spending most of their time in the shop preparing equipment. Very little spring tillage and almost no planting has occurred, though a few fertilizer applications have been attempted and some manure has been spread on higher, sandier ground. While farmers in the region are not yet officially behind schedule, the long-term forecast is not predicting many opportunities for field operations in the near future.


Approximately 2.6 inches of total precipitation has accumulated since April 1. This total is very near our five-year regional average, 2.11 inches, for the month of April. Our most recent precipitation event occurred on Monday, April 21, depositing 0.25-0.5 inches of rainfall. That event, combined with lingering snowmelt, has contributed to pockets of standing water in low, poorly drained fields.

A dynamic weather pattern is headed our way from the west and will bring with it almost daily chances for light precipitation throughout next week. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks from NOAA indicate that Northeast Michigan will likely see near normal precipitation in the next few weeks. This means that many fields could remain wet well into May, potentially delaying planting of oats, corn and potatoes.

Growing degree days (GDD)

High air temperatures over the last two weeks have ranged from 39 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime lows between 15 and 39 F. GDD accumulations since March 1 total 206.4 base 32 F, 57.5 base 42 F, and 9.1 base 50 F. This puts us well behind the 45.75 base 50 GDD five -year average, excluding 2012 as an outlier, for this point in the season. However, our GDD accumulation is surprisingly ahead of last year at this time by approximately 28 percent.

The Great Lakes remain 35 percent covered with ice and high temperatures are expected to only reach the mid- to upper 40s during the next week. Medium range outlooks from NOAA suggest that this pattern of below normal temperatures will likely not break for the next few weeks.

Commodity reports

Winter wheat growth is a calendar week or two behind in Northeast Michigan. Most stands are just beginning to green up and range in development from Feekes stage 2 to stage 3. Winter injury appears to be minimal across the region due to more than sufficient snow cover. Planting was delayed last fall due to weather and tillering is extremely limited in many fields this spring. Average soil temperatures in the mid-40s have limited new root growth. Some attempts have been made to apply nitrogen fertilizer, but field conditions are not supportive of this activity.

Deer, hungry after a cold and snowy winter, have damaged some wheat in the region. Now that the snow is melted, winter annual and biennial weeds are beginning to grow. This will be a critical year for weed control in wheat due to slow crop development. Growers should assess the weed pressure in their fields and weigh the control options soon.

Alfalfa has broken dormancy in Northeast Michigan and is beginning to show the first trifoliate leaves. Winter injury also appears to be minimal in this crop.

No oats, corn, potatoes or soybeans have been planted in Northeast Michigan. Statewide, less than 1 percent of the anticipated corn crop is in the ground.

Other Michigan State University Extension field crop regional reports from this week:

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