While temperatures across the western half of the United States were near-normal, most areas east of the Great Plains were above average. Most notably, monthly averages in portions of the Great Lakes region and the Northeast were 8 degrees or more above normal. February was a relatively dry month for much of the nation. Total precipitation accumulations were less than 50 percent of normal throughout the areas of the Great Basin and Southwest, leaving many producers concerned about the lack of available moisture going into the upcoming crop season. Conversely, winter storm systems delivered moisture totaling 200 percent or more above normal to much
of the Great Plains and lower Delta, improving snow cover for winter wheat and improving soil moisture levels following an unusually dry 2011 crop year.
Weather conditions provided producers in many States plenty of time to prepare farm equipment and fields for spring planting. Mid-month, cultivation was underway in corn and sorghum fields throughout Texas, while cotton growers were pre-watering fields and laying rows. In California, rice fields were drained, and fertilizers and herbicides were applied before cotton and corn planting began. A late-month storm system dumped beneficial rainfall on much of drought-stressed northern Florida. The moisture improved planting conditions, but limited fieldwork activities. Sugarcane producers in Florida and Texas continued to harvest their 2011 crop throughout the month.
An early-month storm system improved snow cover for the winter wheat crop in portions of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains; however, warmer than normal temperatures throughout the month left most areas without measurable snow accumulations. Windy, dry conditions persisted throughout February in the High Plains and Edwards Plateau regions of Texas, depleting soil moisture levels and causing blowing dust storms that negatively impacted the developing wheat crop. Irrigated and some rain-fed small grain fields in California showed exceptional development throughout the month, with limited heading evident in winter wheat fields toward month's end. Conversely, some oat fields in the State were disked under due to poor establishment and growth. Elsewhere, above average precipitation in major wheat-producing regions benefitted soil moisture levels as the crop began to emerge from dormancy.
Throughout the month, a variety of winter vegetables were harvested and shipped from the southern States, while spring vegetable fields were planted. As February progressed, the harvest of early and mid-season oranges tapered off, as the grapefruit, tangerine, temple, and Valencia orange harvest gained speed. While blooming was beginning on most stone fruit trees in California early in the month, early bloom was reported in almond, apricot, and plum trees mid-month. Producers moved bees into orchards to aid in pollination and continued a variety of maintenance activities including irrigation, planting, pruning, and applying herbicides.
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