West central Michigan vegetable regional report – May 1, 2013

The west central region has been cooler and wetter than normal, delaying crop progress. Above-normal temperatures could help reduce this deficit.

End of month weather summary

April 2013 was cooler and wetter than normal, delaying field operations in upland and muck crops in west central Michigan. The entire region is about one to two weeks behind in terms of growing degree day accumulations (GDD) since March 1 (base 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Importantly, recent warm temperatures will help us make up some of this deficit, so things may happen more quickly than expected, so it is critical to walk your fields to check on crop progress. For example, yesterday (April 30) and today’s growing degree day accumulations in Hart, Mich., are expected to about double those on days last week; although the forecast does not suggest very high temperatures will continue in early May, the current weather pattern is unpredictable, so warm temperatures could occur.

For Oceana and Mason counties, 31 and 40 GDD have accumulated between March 1 and April 28, about 60 and 51 GDD behind 30-year normals for Hart, Mich., and Ludington, Mich. Meanwhile, we received 5 inches of rain at the Hart Enviro-weather station and the Ludington Enviro-weather station during April, about 2 inches more than normal for April.

For Ottawa and Kent counties, 47 and 55 GDD have accumulated between March 1 and April 28, putting us 80 to 90 GDD behind normal. Almost 8 inches of precipitation accrued in April in Hudsonville, Mich., and 11 inches at Grand Rapids, Mich., 4-8 inches above normal for April, resulting in major flooding in low-lying areas. For Newaygo County, Fremont, Mich., accumulated 34 GDD and received 8 inches of rain in April, putting it 57 GDD behind and 4 inches over for rainfall normals.

Weather outlook

West central Michigan can expect temperatures to be high today and drop, but remain a few degrees above average into the weekend, with pop-up showers possible. The next major chance for precipitation will be Sunday or Monday (May 5-6), but predictions are not firm. Today’s 6-10 day forecast from the National Weather Service for May 6-10 is for normal temperatures and precipitation. Their 8-14 day outlook for May 8-14 is for below-normal temperatures and normal precipitation. However, state meteorologist Jeff Andresen cautioned that the current weather pattern will generate unpredictable weather – even for Michigan – so these short and medium-range forecasts could change.

The monthly outlook for May provides no guidance for temperatures or precipitation; there’s an equal chance of below and above-normal levels. The outlook for June-August is for above-normal temperatures; Andresen stated today there is good evidence these warm temperatures will occur. There is no long-range guidance for precipitation.

Crop updates

Asparagus spears were observed emerging in Hart, Crystal and Shelby townships on Tuesday, April 30. Best guesses for initiation of harvest range from May 15-21. This could change if above-normal temperatures continue. While this is not expected, if it does occur it could allow us to quickly make up our growing degree day deficit. Some delay in harvest is to be expected; maximum soil temperatures for April have lagged about 10 F below the average of the last five years at the Hart, Mich., Enviro-weather station.

Asparagus spear emergence
Asparagus spear emergence has been detected in some west central Michigan locations.
Make sure to check your field’s progress and finish pre-harvest herbicide applications soon.
Photo credit: Ben Werling, MSU Extension

Michigan State University Extension says to make sure to start herbicide operations on established asparagus fields as soon as possible if you haven’t already. Remember that Sencor, Sinbar, Spartan and Dual Magnum need to be applied soon, as these have six- to 15-day pre-harvest intervals. If possible, apply these before a light rain; otherwise, they will not become activated and may degrade before killing weeds. This Thursday and Friday (May 2-3) may see light showers, presenting good conditions for application.

If you have not killed your rye cover crop yet, remember that it takes three to five days for glyphosate to be absorbed and kill the rye. With temperatures around 70 F, three days should be sufficient to wait before mowing. For cool temps (60 F), wait five days to make sure the rye is dead before mowing. If you mow too early, the rye will not take up the herbicide from the foliage and move it down into the roots. Think about killing your rye cover crop in the next few days; doing so could allow soil temperatures to warm and speed asparagus emergence.

Carrot planting is typically almost completed by this date, but has lagged behind this year with wet soil conditions. Carrot acreage was planted on drier ground early this week and this past weekend, but planting may not finish for five to 10 days, especially for growers planting more northern areas of the Lower Peninsula.

Celery was in the ground as of last Thursday, April 25, in Hudsonville, Mich., and under white plastic for frost protection. However, muck ground was flooded in some areas due to heavy rain, which delayed planting. Some growers are concerned that transplants may become root-bound in the greenhouse, given they should have been in the field by now.

Onions planted in early April have emerged in Hudsonville, Mich., as of last Thursday, April 25. These onions may or may not need to be replanted, depending on how they withstood the flooding that occurred. In general, onion seeds may be able to withstand 48 hours of inundation, but stand loss may be expected for longer flooding. Other growers had not planted onions yet. If you have not planted, remember that onions need to be in by approximately May 10 to give them enough time to grow before plants begin to flower around June 15.

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