As 2021 wrapped up, the winter season has been different from normal expectations. Ryan Martin is an agricultural meteorologist from Warsaw, Indiana. He says when looking at current weather patterns, it’s getting harder to figure out what represents “typical” weather.
“It’s been an above-normal year for temperatures and winter, so far, for temperatures across most the key growing areas in the country. Nobody has seen a prolonged cold snap that rivals anything that we should, or even colder than we should, see this time of year. So, Eastern Corn Belt, Central Plains, Northern Plains, honestly, are seeing more than normal temperature for the bulk of this late fall and early winter season.”
While the warmer-than-normal temps many areas enjoyed in late fall and early-winter won’t stick around, he says the winter is still trending above normal.
“That’s not gonna stick around all winter long, but we’re definitely building a case for a milder winter overall, you know, the longer you go into the winter season keeping temperatures above, the colder you’d have to go to swing it the other way in the remaining timeframes to even out and even get to normal. So, I’m not saying that we’re going to see the well above-normal temperatures stick around longer term, but I am saying that we’re building the stage toward a milder winter in general just by definition of how we average things out.”
Looking ahead to next spring, Martin says some of the challenges farmers saw during harvest may continue into the upcoming planting season. “When we get to planting, my concern right now is that we see a planting season over a large part of the Corn Belt like the hard way that harvest wrapped up or strung out, I guess we should say, over the eastern half of the Corn Belt this past fall. If you move from Eastern Illinois across Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, those guys just had all sorts of problems being able to get in and get things done. There are Michigan acres that are still out as we speak right now waiting to be harvested. So, I have a concern that we see planting gets strung out the same way and that’s for two reasons: I think we’re looking at slightly cooler-than-normal temperatures in that the late-April, early-May timeframe, and so, that’s not going to help our soil temperatures very much; I’m also concerned about moisture. Overall, I think we’re normal to maybe slightly below-normal from June forward on precipitation, but I think we can be slightly above April and May. And I will tell you that the big thing this year is going to be wild swings and definitely some highly-localized precipitation events. So, I’m projecting some planting issues as we get started in the spring coming in.”
2021 brought significant drought to farm country. Martin says some of the soil is completely recharged while other areas are still short.
“Soil profiles are fully recharged in the eastern half of the Corn Belt. As a matter of fact, there are some guys, if you talk to them out that way, that will say we’re way too doggone wet. However, you get back into the central part of the country, the plains are working on some significant drought right now. We don’t see that breaking anytime in the near future. So, wheat wise, I think the wheat crop has got the cards stacked against it right now. And I think you get up even into the western Corn Belt. We have recharged our soil conditions, but we’re not sitting on the surplus of moisture that maybe we see farther east”