Northeast Michigan field crop update – May 11, 2017

As fields dry, soil preparation and planting begin.

Weather and rainfall

Mostly clear skies and dry weather are expected to persist across northeast Michigan for the coming six days, offering our first significant window for spring fieldwork. This relatively favorable start to May comes on the heels of a wet April, in which 3.87 inches of rain fell at the Hawks Enviroweather station (1.40 inches above average for April at this location). Heavier soils have been slow to dry under fairly cool temperatures, delaying planting of small grains and corn in some areas.

Our next chance for rain will come Tuesday, May 16, but only scattered showers are expected. The NOAA 6-10 day outlook predicts near normal rainfall for the coming week, while the 8-14 day outlook suggests a decent probability of above-normal precipitation over the following week.

Growing degree-days (GDD)

Temperatures have been unseasonably cool this past week, with daytime highs in the mid-50s. Nighttime lows have been downright cold for the beginning of May, getting as low as 26 degrees Fahrenheit at the Hawks Enviroweather station. With any luck, the frost/freeze events occurring earlier this week should be our last for the season.

GDD accumulations since March 1 total 573 base 32 F, 245 base 41 and 83 base 50. Most of northeast Michigan is three to 10 calendar days behind the 30-year average for GDD accumulation in our region. Temperatures are expected to gradually warm over the next week, with highs reaching the mid- to upper 60s by Monday, May 15, and holding there through next week.

Soil temperatures at 2 inches have been in the mid- to upper 40s depending on residue cover and disturbance. The NOAA 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks suggest a strong probability of above normal temperatures in coming weeks.

Commodity reports

Alfalfa has greened-up nicely, but is growing slowly due to the lack of heat recently. Winter injury appears to be limited, and most stands have recovered from the drought stress that occurred in 2016. Plants are 4-7 inches tall with five to eight trifoliate leaves. Growers are top-dressing fertilizer as fields dry.

Michigan State University Extension researchers applied gypsum to alfalfa near Onaway, Michigan, on May 9 for the second year of on-farm research investigating this soil amendment as a source of sulfur for forage. Seeding of new hay is progressing as conditions allow.

Winter wheat in northeast Michigan has mostly reached first joint (Feeke’s 6 growth stage). However, there is variability in development of the wheat crop due to later planting in the fall of last year. Most stands are looking quite strong, even where tillering is limited. Nitrogen fertilizer applications are largely complete, and fields that have not received any spring fertilizer are beginning to show signs of nitrogen stress with foliage yellowing.

Winter annual weeds may be more prevalent this year following a mild winter. First joint is the recommended cut-off for 2, 4-D, dicamba and MCPA herbicide applications in wheat. Where weed pressure is low, skipping an herbicide pass may improve profitability. No true armyworm moths have been trapped at our monitoring location in Moltke Township, Michigan, as of today, May 11.

Spring oat and barley planting continues in our region as farmers are able to get into fields. MSU Extension researchers will plant a malting barley variety trial in Royston, Michigan, on Monday, May 15.

The first few acres of corn were planted in northeast Michigan this week. Less than 5 percent of our anticipated corn crop is in the ground. However, growers may decrease their corn acreage significantly this year facing low prices. With the weather expected to remain good for fieldwork, many more acres will likely be prepped and planted in the coming week.

Only two black cutworm moths have been caught at our monitoring site in Moltke Township over the last week. However, black cutworms have been numerous down-state, and some growers are reporting damage to early corn. According to MSU entomologist Christina DiFonzo, “Black cutworm moths lay eggs on grassy weeds or cover crops, low-growing winter annuals and no-till crop residue like dead stems or stalks. Scouting for cutworm cutting in corn should start 300 degree-days after a significant flight in an area, defined as more than nine moths captured in a bucket trap over a two-night period. The treatment threshold is 5 percent of plants cut.”

Only a handful of soybean acres have been planted in northeast Michigan, which may have been exposed to chilling injury earlier this week. Growers are encouraged to evaluate stand establishment in early-planted soybean fields.

Fields going to potatoes are being prepped for planting. No potato planting activity has been reported in our area as of today, May 11.

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