Northeast Michigan field crop regional report – August 11, 2016

A month of above-normal temperatures and almost no measurable precipitation has intensified moisture stress in most crops across northeast Michigan.

Weather and rainfall

Only 5.24 inches of rain has fallen at the Michigan State University Hawks Enviro-weather station since April 1, nearly 7 inches below the five-year average for this period. However, extreme spatial variability in precipitation totals has also created a patchwork of crop conditions. A general pattern of increasing moisture stress moving from northwest (e.g. Onaway, Ocqueoc) to southeast (e.g., Hillman, Hubbard Lake) is evident, but large differences are also apparent from one field to the next in many areas.

Thankfully, a tropical air mass is moving into Michigan and rain is likely today through Saturday, Aug. 13. Our greatest chance for precipitation will come this Friday, Aug. 12, into Saturday, with isolated storms expected to deliver 0.50-1.5 inches of rain. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks from NOAA suggest a weak trend toward more normal precipitation totals in coming weeks.

Growing degree-days (GDD)

High temperatures since Aug. 1 have ranged from 81 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows between 48 and 60 F. The sustained hot weather has accelerated GDD accumulation and crop development, exacerbating moisture stress and robbing yield potential. GDD accumulations since March 1 total 3,675.1 base 32 F, 2,533.6 base 41 and 1,602.1 base 50. The majority of our region is now one to two calendar weeks ahead of the five-year average for this point in the growing season.

Temperatures are expected to moderate somewhat after storms move through this weekend. Average highs in the upper 70s to low 80s are forecast for the next 10 days. However, the 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks from NOAA suggest that our region will very likely continue to experience above-normal temperatures well into September.

Commodity reports

Winter wheat harvest in northeast Michigan has finished this week. Reported yields were variable across the region, some poor perhaps due to stripe rust infections earlier in the year, while others were significantly above the county average. Drought stress did not appear to hurt wheat yields, but test weights were generally lower this year as a result of limited precipitation during grain fill. Grain quality was otherwise good, with no reports of high DON levels or sprout.

Oat and barley crops range from drying down to mature. Our malting barley variety trial was harvested Wednesday, Aug. 10. Dry conditions have had a significant negative impact on yields reported so far. The bulk of oat harvest will occur over the next 10 days in northeast Michigan.

Corn development is being severely impacted by drought conditions in our region. Leaves are rolled up in most fields and plants are stunted. Most fields have completed pollination and set ears, continuing through the reproductive stages that are critical for yield determination. Lack of moisture during this period throws off timing between corn tasseling and ear silking, leading to poor pollination. Most of the corn crop is in the blister stage and beginning to enter the milk stage (R2-R3). Grain development has been accelerating in these dry conditions, and is now also being compromised by dry soil. Rain now would only prevent further yield losses.

Soybeans have also been affected by the dry weather, limiting the number of pods set and seeds per pod. Most fields are at full pod and are beginning seed development (R4-R5). Dry conditions have raised the risk for spider mite infestations, but reports of spider mite damage have been limited in our region. Most crop injury apparent in fields has been yellowing and wilting from the lack of moisture.

Dry beans have been flowering and setting pods. Western bean cutworm numbers are up this year, but counts are not nearly as high in our region as they have been in other areas of the state. Moth flight peaked this week, and larvae have begun to hatch and feed. Scouting for feeding injury on pods and blossoms is recommended, especially in the area stretching from Moltke Township to Hawks, where moth counts have reached threshold. Detailed information on western bean cutworm management in dry beans is available in the MSU Extension article, “Western bean cutworm peak flight is occurring in dry beans.”

Hay production is beginning to wrap up in our region. Most grass hay has been harvested, as has second cutting alfalfa. Second cutting yields have been drastically impacted by the dry weather in alfalfa, and many grass stands may not produce a viable second cutting this year. Poor pasture condition has forced some producers to begin feeding hay and silage already this summer. However, variable rainfall and remaining 2015 crop has allowed the forage supply to remain strong in some areas of the state, and prices are not expected to increase dramatically.

Potatoes are progressing through the tuber bulking stage of growth. Developing tubers can add six to 10 hundredweight per acre each day during the bulking period. However, pest pressure and environmental stress can cut the bulking period short and ultimately reduce yield. For example, dryland production fields in our region are facing drought stress and in some cases beginning to senesce. Fungicide for late blight is being applied at five- to seven-day intervals. The Presque Isle County Potato Field Day is scheduled for Aug. 30, 11 a.m. at the Wilk Farm near Posen, Michigan.

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