Northeast Michigan field crop regional report – May 12, 2016

Cool, wet weather in the forecast is likely to delay planting progress.


Six mostly dry days between Friday, May 6, and Wednesday, May 11, gave producers in the northeast region their first significant opportunity for planting this spring. Although some lower areas remain too wet for wheel traffic, equipment has been on the move. A number of fields have received fertilizer or manure and coarser, upland soils have been worked. Seeding of oats is perhaps 20 percent complete, and the first few acres of corn were planted early this week. However, the forecast calls for unseasonably cool temperatures and unsettled air with frequent chances for light precipitation over the next week.


Our last significant wet day in northeast Lower Michigan was Wednesday, May 4, with precipitation amounting to 0.63 inch. That event brought our rainfall total for the last month to 1.45 inches, nearly 2 inches below the five-year average for this period. The short-term forecast includes significant chances for precipitation during the latter part of this week and middle of next on Wednesday, May 18. Snow could be in the mix this weekend when nighttime temperatures will likely dip into the lower 30s, a full 15-20 degrees below normal. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks from NOAA indicate northeast Michigan will experience near to slightly above normal precipitation in the next few weeks.

Growing degree days (GDD)

High air temperatures over the last week have ranged from 60 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime lows between 30 and 44. Thursday, May 5, kicked off the first stretch of seven consecutive days with high temperatures above 60 F in 2016. GDDs have accumulated at a slightly faster pace with this increase in temperature, and the northeast remains nearly on-par with our average spring. GDD accumulations since March 1 total 637.4 base 32 F, 299.2 base 41 and 118.9 base 50. High temperatures reached the mid-60s yesterday, May 12, before plummeting into the 40s over the weekend, and finally moderating to the upper 50s next week. Cool temperatures in the forecast will slow herbicide activity in some cases, as many of these products require a certain minimum temperature to activate. The medium range outlooks from NOAA suggest temperatures will recover quickly to be above normal in coming weeks.

Commodity reports

Winter wheat is fully tillered, ranging in development from Feekes stage 5 to 6. Nitrogen fertilizer has been applied in most fields, with plants yellowing somewhat where applications were delayed. No true armyworm moths have been trapped at our monitoring site in Presque Isle County, but two black cutworm moths were recovered today. Michigan State University Extension suggests growers consider monitoring wheat, oat and corn fields for cutworm damage if and when weekly catch numbers reach nine moths. Stripe rust is being reported in wheat growing regions downstate. This disease can reduce wheat yields by as much as 50 percent, and is developing approximately a month ahead of schedule in southern Michigan.

Alfalfa is beginning to accelerate growth. Many plants have five or six trifoliate leaves and average 7 inches in height. Cool season forage grasses are also approximately 5-7 inches tall. Few new seedings have been established this spring, but likely will be in the next couple of weeks. We are nearly halfway to first cutting in terms of GDD accumulation, which normally coincides with the accumulation of 750 GDD base 41 F.

Oats have been sown in a few fields over the last week. With oat prices near or below the cost of production, plus strict quality standards at most markets, fewer acres will be planted this year, except where used as a nurse crop. Many growers are developing interest in alternative spring grains like malting barley. Our Presque Isle County malting barley variety and nitrogen rate trial was planted near Posen, Michigan, on Tuesday, May 10.

The first acres of corn were planted in our region over the last few days. Corn requires a minimum soil temperature of 50 F to germinate evenly, and 2,000-2,400 GDD base 50 to mature depending on hybrid relative maturity. As we enter the second half of May, growers may consider adjusting hybrid maturity by five relative maturity units for delayed planting situations. Statewide, 18 percent of our anticipated corn crop is in the ground.

No significant acreage of potatoes, soybeans or dry beans has been planted in northeast Michigan.

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