Warmer Weather Brings Faster Crop Development

Early warmth leaves crops vulnerable to cold weather.

Published on: Mar 15, 2012

Warm conditions across the South mean those corn crops already planted will be vulnerable according to USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. He says the warm weather will cause the crops to emerge and develop quickly. Already 20% of the corn crop is planted in Texas, 8% in Georgia and 4% in South Carolina.

"With the warm weather in areas where there is abundant moisture there will be a very rapid development of the corn crop," Rippey said. "So we'll be keeping an eye on the North for any signs of cold air. Certainly no appearance of that at this point, but if things change we'll have to keep an eye on corn, wheat and other crops."

Including blooming fruit trees in the Southeast, which Rippey says are way ahead of schedule. For Georgia peaches, Rippey says 69% of the crop was blooming by March 11. Only 3% of the peaches had bloomed at that same time last year.

There is good news for the West as Rippey says much needed storms are heading to California.

"At this point the average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada stands at approximately nine inches; that's one-third of average for this time of year in mid-March," Rippey said. "Now it looks like we could see anywhere from four to 10 inches of liquid accumulating in the high elevation Sierra Nevada over the next five to six days."

Rippey says that could easily take the snow-water equivalent from nine up to 15 inches. The difference of the water shortage can't be made up during this time, Rippey says because there won't be much, if any, snow accumulation after April 1. Still, he says just taking it up to 15 inches would bump drought relief up to one-half of average. Rippey says most of the West still is in good shape in terms of reservoir storage due to the good wet season last year.

These storms are better late than never, Rippey says, as they may help green up pastures in California and provide natural feed. Going into the East, winter wheat is really getting off to a quick start with all this warm weather.

"We have record setting warmth in place already from the Plains to the East Coast," Rippey said. Looking at some of the record high temperatures for March 12, we saw temperatures as high as 83 degrees in Russell, Kan., 84 in St. Louis, Mo., and even to the East Coast 71 degrees in both New York City and Boston on March 12."

Rippey says this is just a sign of things to come. Looking into next week, he says there's no sign of an end to the warm weather from the Plains to the East Coast. These conditions are pushing winter wheat far ahead of its normal developmental pace, which Rippey says leaves the crop vulnerable to a late freeze.