Editor's note: What should you expect in USDA's March 31 Prospective Plantings report? AgWeb.com editors are providing you in-depth looks at six key regions that will affect this year’s acreage mix.
While the acreage mix in northern states is expected to remain fairly steady this year, there is one issue that producers can’t ignore: a cold spring and the possibility of late planting.
As of March 26, several northern states still have snow on the ground, and the National Weather Service (NWS) is reporting below-average temperatures and flood risk for the area through April.
"The continuation of winter weather, above-average snowpack, frozen ground and thick ice coverage on streams and rivers will delay spring flooding into April in the upper Midwest eastward to New England. The intensity of the flooding will depend on the rate of snow and ice melt, and future rainfall," NWS reports.
With this cold, wet forecast in mind, here's a look at four key crop states in the north.
In 2013, farmers in New York intended to plant 1.2 million acres of corn, the highest number of acres in the past three years. But Bill Cox, crop specialist with Cornell University, predicts that corn acres in the state will drop slightly this year.
"Corn silage may be up because of strong milk prices, but corn for grain will be down," he says. With corn prices down, he expects more farmers to switch to soybeans.
"Soybeans should go up to 350,000 acres," he continues. Last year, the intended soybean acreage was set at 325,000 acres, but Cox says only 280,000 got planted due to wet spring conditions.
"Wheat may be up 10% because farmers used preventive planting on beans, and could plant wheat in September," he adds.
To that effect, Cox says farmers in his state are concerned about having another wet spring, and rightly so. One farmer in Steuben County reported to Crop Comments in early March that his fields were more or less frozen.
"Was out in my corn field. One foot of ice, no snow over it. Looks like a big storm next week will bury it under more," the farmer said.
NWS predicts below-normal temperatures through April and minor flood risk for the state this spring. However, Cox says that planting could start around mid- to late April, provided soil conditions are dry.
The weather in Pennsylvania has also been frosty, which means planting could get off to slow start there as well. The state has begun the year with exceptionally chilly temperatures, and NWS is predicting colder-than-average weather to continue through April.
"It has been one of the colder starts to the year, with most regions averaging 3 to 5 degrees below normal for the first 10 weeks of 2014, the coldest beginning since 1994," reports Paul Knight, Penn State climatologist. "There are no signs of prolonged warmth as we approach April."
The state's prospective acreage for both corn and soybeans has only slightly increased over the past three years, with 1.48 million acres of corn and 560,000 acres of soybeans intended for 2013.
One farmer in Somerset County reports to Crop Comments that they would be planting 50% corn, 40% soybeans and 10% oats. Another farmer in Venango County said he would be planting a mixture of corn and oats, and expects to start planting around mid- to late-April.
The weather is definitely on the minds of Minnesota producers, judging by Crop Comments reports.