Only Thing Certain In Michigan Is Weather Uncertainty

Michigan Musings

Growers still optimistic for normal season even with delayed planting.

Published on: April 23, 2013

Frost risk eased
A ray of sunshine in this spring of overcast has been a cautious sigh of relief by tree fruit growers, who have – at least so far – dodged a double whammy with a cold spring that has delayed budding of trees and the potential for deadly frosts.

"Last year really made you wonder what was going on," says Bob Boehm, commodity and marketing specialist at Michigan Farm Bureau. "The fruit guys are sleeping a whole lot better than they did last year."

And, for the row croppers, "The drought is over in a lot of places --  at least upper sub soils," Boehm added. "We just need to get the temperature up. Farmers are waxing their tractors and polishing their planters, waiting for things to break."

While the delayed planting has created a shorter season, Boehm says it's not a concern at this point if farmers can get into the ground soon. He says most farmers are not swamping out seed for shorter season varieties at this point.

"If we can finish up in a month from now, corn planting will be fine," he says. "For the most part, the moisture was welcomed, with the exception of some concerns with flooding on winter wheat. We do have some spots that are drowned out, but we generally lose some every year. Typically, rain is more help than hurt."

Even for sugarbeet growers who are itching to get into the fields and who were done planting by April 12 last year. Paul Pfenninger, vice president of agriculture for Michigan Sugar Company, says 8,137 acres of sugarbeets were planted between April 4 and April 8 – just 5% of the total 160,936 acres contracted. Pfenninger says those planted acres may be holding their own and be up by the time farmers return to the fields.

Farmers have been rained out of the fields since April 8, with almost of 5 inches of rain through April 11, and then another three inches from April 15-18.

"We hope to get into the fields the first week of May if most of this week stays dry," Pfenninger says. "We're not worried yet, but next week becomes critical. In 2011, we had only 25% planted in April and we still averaged 24.1 tons per acre. Every day in May becomes more critical, but our growers plant faster than just 5 to 10 years ago – there's no panic button yet."