Weather trends could continue
The dry, cold winter could mean a late spring, according to F. Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota State University climatologist.
Akyuz said current weather trends could continue.
“High pressure could keep pumping cold air into the region,” he said. “That could continue into the spring. It could lead to a late spring this year if we are locked into this kind of pattern.”
The late spring could be compounded by soil conditions that could delay planting and plant emergence.
“The wet fall and cold temperatures before we received snow has led to a very deep frost,” Akyuz said. “It could take time to thaw. That could lead to a late start to the growing season because of the soil temperatures.”
Normal spring field work in North Dakota starts with spring wheat planting in the last week of April, followed by durum and corn planting starting the first week of May. Soybean planting usually starts the third week of May, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“Planting late could result in another late harvest,” said Lindsey Novak, Stutsman County Extension agent. “Some farmers may choose to plant an earlier maturing variety but that is not always possible because of seed availability.”
Corn is the most susceptible to problems with late spring planting because it requires a longer growing season, Novak said. If cold weather keeps soil temperatures low, the crop may not germinate. Planting later could result in a crop that doesn’t mature before the fall frosts.
“Small grains are also affected,” she said. “Farmers want to get the crops in early so they get the best growing conditions.”
The cold conditions have made this one of the 20 coldest winters for eastern North Dakota since records began in the 1880s, according to Akyuz. The next two weeks don’t indicate any break in these conditions.
Akyuz said the dry, cold winter could lead to a dry, hot summer.
“If the rains don’t return by the end of spring, we could see a drought as intense as 2012,” he said.
“Dry usually means warmer than normal.”
A dry spring and summer would compound a dry winter. Jamestown normally receives 1.15 inches of moisture from Dec. 1 through Feb. 24. This winter the area has received about half that amount at 0.65 inch.
Akyuz said last fall’s moisture should be enough for germination and early spring crop development.
“If the rains don’t come this spring the moisture from last fall can go very fast,” he said. “The drought can return in a hurry.”
The center’s forecast for the summer — June, July and August — includes equal chances of above or below normal temperatures and precipitation.