Regional reports on Michigan field crops – May 3, 2012

MSU Extension educators’ pest and field crop updates for Michigan.

This week’s regional reports:

Southwest Michigan - Bruce Mackellar, Michigan State University Extension

Southwest Michigan
Southwest Michigan


As the standing joke goes, we are almost back to March weather in southwest Michigan. Temperatures in the mid-80s are a welcome relief to the cold April weather. Thunderstorm rainfall over last weekend has left field conditions wet, but warm winds and at least partial sunshine has been drying soils out over the last two days. Thunderstorms in the forecast this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow may push back planting operations.


Precipitation totals over the last two weeks ranged from 1.7 to 0.9 inches across the region. The seven-day precipitation totals are running between 1 to 2 inches across most of the southern two tiers of counties. Virtually all of southwest Michigan missed rainfall over the last 24 hours. With dryer than normal conditions in both the 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks, planting operations will most likely be fully underway next week.


Southwest Michigan will almost be the focal point of cooler than normal conditions in both the 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks. Growing degree day totals across the region were at 645 Base 41 GDDs across the 13 weather stations across the region, and we average 107 GDDs base 50 since April 15. We normally accumulate around 9GDDs base 50 during the next five-day period.


Corn planted around April 10 is beginning to emerge. So far, stands have been looking pretty good, but not all of the corn has emerged yet in these early planted fields. Planting progress probably ranges from 40 percent in Branch and St. Joseph counties (commercial corn) to much less in other areas. So far, weeds have not been growing much because of the cold temperatures. Black cutworm traps in southern Van Buren County showed a significant pickup in moth flight early this week. Most fields do not have much green material in them right now, so challenges may be limited to no-till fields that have not received burn-down herbicides yet. Growers should watch these fields though. Traps in Northern Van Buren have not seen much activity.

Early planted corn emerged after being planted for almost
three weeks

Soybean planting has been underway. I have not seen any fields that have emerged yet, but the warmer and temperatures and moist conditions will help these to emerge soon.

The wheat crop did see some leaf tip burn from frost received on Friday, April 27. Temperatures in the southern portion of the region dipped to as low as 22°F for a period of time. Wheat was at Feeke’s Stage 8-9 during the time of the freeze. Temperatures below 28 can cause damage to florets at around this stage of development. Leaf diseases are still low in wheat fields I have walked. There is varying levels of damage to fields depending on temperatures received on April 27 and before. We have armyworm traps in place in Van Buren County and will report trap catches starting next week.

Wheat head unwrapped from foliage on April 29. Damage
to florets may be hard to determine at this time.

Repeated frosts have caused sporadic damage to alfalfa stands across the region. Some growers have decided to harvest the first cutting in hopes that the second will emerge rapidly with the improving growing conditions. There are some alfalfa weevil larvae out in fields, but their activity had been low because of the cool temperatures. Watch for their activity to increase if warmer temperatures remain.

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West Central Michigan – Fred Springborn, Michigan State University Extension

West Central Michigan
West Central Michigan


Cool weather during much of the past week was less than inspiring to many growers who were planting or contemplating planting. High air temperatures were in the mid-50s to low 60s with lows generally in the 30s. Low air temperatures dropped to 27°F on April 27 and a low of 25°F on April 29. Low soil temperatures at 2 inches have been in the lower to mid-40s with highs in the upper 40s to low 50s. Temperatures have improved in the last 24 hours with a high yesterday (May 2) of 76. Precipitation has been generally light with 0.2 of an inch on April 26 and from 0.2 to 0.5 inches on April 30. A few areas did receive significant rainfall of 0.5 inches and more with some unconfirmed reports of upwards of an inch on May 2.


Wheat is at Feekes 7 with some advanced fields at Feekes 8. Leaf disease pressure remains quite low in most fields. Leaf tissue injury from freezing temperatures and the potential for injury to the developing head continue to be the primary concerns.

Alfalfais variable in height and quality. Most fields have been frosted back numerous times. Alfalfa weevil and feeding is present at low levels.

Corn is 20 to 25 percent planted. A few producers are nearly finished, while many have not begun. I have not observed any emerged corn.

Soybean planting is getting started, as with corn, and some areas and some producers are planting at a faster pace than others.

Sugarbeets by in large are doing well with good stands. A few fields did have some injury and stand loss from blowing soil in the high wind events experienced over the past two weeks.

Armyworm pheromone traps in Montcalm County caught an average of two moths per trap last week and black cutworm traps averaged one moth per trap for the week.

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Central Michigan – Paul Gross, Michigan State University Extension

Central Michigan
Central Michigan


There were five days suitable for field work over the past week across the region. Scattered showers Tuesday and Wednesday (May 1-2) were variable with amounts ranging from a trace to over one-quarter of an inch. A line of showers in the early morning hours Thursday (May 3) brought over one-half inch of rain in the northern part of the region. Most farmers welcomed the rains because of dry soils. Soil temperatures are warming up, reaching 60 degrees mid-day. Growing degree accumulation has slowed, but we still remain about two weeks ahead of normal.

Commodity reports

Corn planting is well underway with no emergence at this time. Field conditions have been very good. Planting progress is in the 20 to 30 percent range with some farmers finishing up while others are just getting started. No reported problems.

Soybean planting is well underway as well. Farmers are following the recommendation for planting soybeans early for the highest yields. Most farmers are geared up with both planters and drills to plant corn and soybeans early. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the crop is planted.

Wheat seems to be going backwards with the hard frost last week. The most advanced fields are in Feeke’s growth stage 7-8. Some areas in the north part of the region have had multiple frosts on this crop. Many fields have frost damaged leaves. There is some concern that these late frost will reduce yield. Because of the stress on the plants from frost, growers are advised to be cautious about applying 28 percent N and herbicides. There is powdery mildew in many fields but at low levels. Scout fields for army worms as well as disease pressure.

Alfalfa is 14 to 16 inches tall and recovering from frosted tips. There are reports of severe frost damage last week in the southern parts of the region. In some cases, the plant may be stunted. It is advised to scout these fields to determine the level of damage. Some of these fields may need to be cut early. This will be a field-by-field decision. Scout for alfalfa weevil.

Oats and the new alfalfa seedings are emerging and looking very good. No reported problems.

Sugarbeets have emerged nicely. There are some reports of frost damage in low laying areas of fields.

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