Northeast Michigan field crop regional report – May 21, 2015

Planting is well ahead of schedule, but cool weather has been hard to shake.

Early planted corn is emerging across the Northeast. Photo credit: James DeDecker, MSU Extension.
Early planted corn is emerging across the Northeast. Photo credit: James DeDecker, MSU Extension.

Weather and rainfall

Six days have been dry enough for field work since Wednesday, May 13, allowing planting of oats, corn, potatoes and soybeans to continue well ahead of schedule as compared to five-year averages from the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Services. Rainfall totals across northeast Michigan are now 75-100 percent of our 30-day regional average and soil moisture is nearly ideal. Only a few northwestern counties, particularly Cheboygan, Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties, remain slightly dry (0.5-1 inch below average).

A slow moving warm front is predicted to reach our area early Monday, May 25, bringing daily chances for showers throughout next week and total rainfall of 0.5-1 inch. This wet weather may stick around for some time, as the eight- to 14-day outlook from NOAA indicates a good chance for above normal precipitation in coming weeks.

Growing degree days (GDD)

High air temperatures have varied greatly over the last week, ranging from 57 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Nighttime lows have been between 28 and 48 F. Our region was subjected to widespread frost this Tuesday evening, May 19. Several crops were negatively impacted by the cold, but most annual field crops have not yet emerged. Alfalfa, as well as sprouted oats and corn, should recover quickly.

GDD accumulations since March 1 total 841 base 32 F, 443 base 41 and 203 base 50. Despite recent cool weather, much of northeast Michigan is approximately one to seven calendar days ahead of the 30-year average for GDD accumulation at this point in the season. However, daytime highs will only reach the upper 50s this Friday, May 22, before settling in the upper 60s to lower 70s for Memorial Day weekend and most of the following week. The six- to 10- and eight- to 14-day outlooks from NOAA indicate our region will likely experience near normal temperatures in the mid-term.

Commodity reports

Some winter wheat fields are showing signs of early stress as stem extension continues, the first node now visible above ground (Feekes stage 6). Nitrogen stress and the symptoms of uneven nitrogen fertilizer applications are becoming quite apparent. Streaks or patches of light green color have some growers considering an additional fertilizer.

Other irregular areas showing up in wheat stands are likely pest related. I observed what may be Septoria leaf spot in one field this week, still to be confirmed by the lab. Septoria fungus commonly infects wheat following cool, wet weather in the early season. Growers should scout their fields for insects and leaf diseases to begin formulating a control plan, if needed. No true armyworm moths have been trapped at our monitoring site in Presque Isle County, but their flight has begun in southernmost parts of the state and will progress northward over the next few weeks.

Planting of spring oats and other small grains like barley will wrap-up this week. The earliest planted stands are emerging and appear to be in good condition.

Alfalfa in the northeast is better than halfway to first harvest. Plants are 11-17 inches tall and approximately 25-27 percent neutral detergent fiber (NDF). Michigan State University Extension recommends beginning alfalfa harvest at the mid-bud stage, which normally coincides with the accumulation of 750 base 41 F GDDs (currently 443 base 41). No alfalfa weevil larvae have hatched at this point, but the MSU Enviro-weather alfalfa weevil model predicts feeding will begin around May 26, with the accumulation of 300 base 48 GDDs. Other minor alfalfa pests, such as meadow spittlebugs, have already been observed in the field. Seeding of new stands continued during the last week. Cool season forage grasses are 14-25 inches tall.

Corn planting has continued over the last week, with most growers intending to finish before the rain starts next Monday, May 25. Early planted corn is beginning to emerge. Emergence appears to be fairly uniform, but some stands may be showing signs of minor chilling injury sustained by the germinating seeds. Corn that has emerged was exposed to frost this Tuesday evening, May 19, but should not be significantly damaged since the plant’s growing point remains below the soil surface this early in development. Some incidence of cutworm damage to corn has been reported downstate, but this pest has not been observed in our region.

Many soybeans acres were planted in the last week. Those planted 10 to 14 days ago are now cracking the soil surface. Various bird species and white-tailed deer will soon be feeding on the tender cotyledons. MSU Extension will be deploying deer exclusion cages in several local soybean fields over the next two weeks to measure yield loss caused by deer browsing.

Rain and cool temperatures forecast for next week could increase the likelihood of soil borne seedling diseases such as Phytophthora, Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium. Growers should scout their fields to check emergence, stand count and weed pressure beginning seven days after planting.

Potato growers reported further progress with planting over the last week. Roughly 2,000 acres are dedicated to fresh market and seed potato production in our region, much of that concentrated in Presque Isle County. No shoots have emerged yet, but the earliest planted fields should break through in the next seven to 10 days.

No dry beans have been planted in northeast Michigan.

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

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