Northeast Michigan field crop regional report – May 15, 2014

Some scattered planting of corn and soybeans occurred in the last week, but most growers in Northeast Michigan are waiting for soil conditions to improve.


Our recent progress toward more seasonal conditions gave way to another bought of cool, wet weather today, May 15. A deep toughing pattern in the jet stream will push into Michigan over the next two days, increasing chances for precipitation. Rain could turn to sleet or snow late tonight as low temperatures dip into the mid-30s. Less favorable weather has halted progress in soil preparation and planting that occurred over the last 10 days. Conditions are expected to improve once again early next week with highs reaching the upper-60s by Wednesday, May 21.


A great deal of lighter ground was dry enough to be tilled over Mother’s Day weekend, May 10-11, and early this week, but heavier soils have yet to drain following our spring thaw. Approximately 0.60 inches of rainfall was recorded at the Michigan State University Hawks Enviro-weather station in the last week. Total precipitation since May 1 is 1.63 inches, just about 0.30 inches above our regional five-year average for this period. We have seen approximately 41 hours of rainfall in that same period compared to the five-year average of 27 hours.

The near-term forecast includes a 47 percent chance of precipitation during the evening of Saturday, May 17. Total rainfall from this event is expected to be between 0.25 and 0.5 inches. Our next significant chance for precipitation is in the forecast for next Wednesday, May 21, continuing through next Thursday, May 22. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks from NOAA suggest that recent precipitation is only the beginning of a wetter trend that will continue with above normal precipitation in coming weeks.

Growing degree days (GDD)

High air temperatures over the last week covered a broad range from 45 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime lows between 39 and 52 F. GDD accumulations since March 1 total 525.6 base 32 F, 190.7 base 41, and 59.9 base 50. Most of Northeast Michigan remains approximately two calendar weeks behind the 30-year average for GDD accumulation at this point in the season.

Soil temperatures continue to hover around 50 F with little warming over the last seven days. This is bad news for growers who have begun planting corn or soybeans. Daytime high temperatures are expected to trend upward beginning Sunday, May 18. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks from NOAA indicate that temperatures will be nearer to normal in the coming weeks.

Commodity reports

Winter wheat is beginning to show signs of stem elongation. Most stands range in development from Feekes stage 4 to stage 5 with later planted fields clearly lagging behind. This is a critical time for weed control decisions as many herbicides labeled for use in winter wheat cannot be applied after Feekes stage 5 without risking crop injury and yield loss. For detailed information on weed control in wheat, see Michigan State University Extension’s “2014 Weed Control Guide for Field Crops.”

Application of nitrogen fertilizer was largely completed over the last week. No true armyworm moths have been trapped at our monitoring site in Presque Isle County. However, limited numbers have been reported from the southern Lower Peninsula, suggesting that the flight has begun. Armyworm could be a significant concern this season as smaller, less developed plants tend to be more susceptible to damage.

Alfalfa is developing steadily despite its late start. Plants are 5 to 7 inches tall and have seven to nine trifoliate leaves. Growers applied potash and other fertilizer to established stands over the last week.

No alfalfa weevil larvae have hatched at this point, but the MSU Alfalfa Weevil Enviro-weather model predicts that feeding will begin around May 22 with the accumulation of 300 GDD base 48. Few new stands have been seeded so far this spring. Cool season forage grasses are 6 to 8 inches tall.

Oat planting was largely completed in recent days. The earliest sown stands should begin to emerge soon.

The first scattered acres of corn and soybeans were planted in our region over the last several days. Statewide, 20 percent of our anticipated corn crop is in the ground. Corn requires a minimum soil temperature of 50 F to germinate evenly, and 2,000-2,400 GDDs base 50 to mature, depending on hybrid relative maturity. As we enter the second half of May, growers may consider adjusting hybrid maturity for delayed planting situations. The last day to report prevented planting on insured corn acres is Thursday, June 5.

No potatoes or dry beans have been planted in Northeast Michigan.

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

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