2013 Farming outlook: Spring crops get late — but not terrible — start

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 12:00 pm on Wednesday, May 08, 2013



Heavier than average rainfall probably won’t have too great an influence on most crops grown in the area, according to Montcalm County Extension Field Crops Educator Fred Springborn, though it is likely to be responsible for some crops getting in the ground later than they would during a warmer, drier spring.

Crops such as oats, sugar beets and green peas all will likely get a later start than normal. What happens after that will be primarily determined by weather conditions later in the growing season.

“I think that locally, the rain is a big factor,” Springborn said. “Also, the cold temperatures keep the soil from warming up. Already, wheat is about a week behind normal.”

Under ideal conditions, sugar beets would already be in the ground and getting established. However, cool temps and wet conditions have prevented that from happening, so far.

This is in direct opposition to last year’s sugar beet crop, which set records.

Colder than average temperatures and above normal rainfall have contributed to a late planting season. Crops like corn and potatoes, which are planted later in the season, will likely not be affected by April’s wet, cold weather.

“It’s possible we will have a sugar beet crop as good as last year,” Springborn said. “But with this slow start, that’s doubtful. We’re probably not going to have a repeat of last year, but things are still looking good.”

Later season plantings like corn and potatoes likely will not be affected much by early April’s cool temperatures and wet conditions. Typically, these don’t go in the ground until near the end of April or early May.

If the cold temperatures persist into late spring, it could possibly delay the planting of some late season crops. Even this might not necessarily be detrimental to yields, however.

“It would just delay the start of things,” Springborn said. “That may or may not be a bad thing. Everything really depends on how the rest of the summer comes out. If it’s cold all summer, then we’ve got a problem, but right now the cold temps don’t affect things all that much.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac — a repository of farming advice and predictions for generations — forecasts above average rainfall for May, with temperatures slightly below average.

Summer temperatures and rainfall are predicted to be about normal, with the hottest days falling mid-month in July and August.

The cold, wet conditions are welcome by area fruit growers. Last year’s early spring and warm temps, followed by a late-season frost, were especially problematic for apple and cherry growers, who saw serious reductions in yields.

“The cold has kept things stable,” Springborn said. “That’s important for these kind of crops.”

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