All areas in the United States east of the Great Plains recorded below average temperatures for the month. Areas of the Corn Belt, the Ohio River Valley, and New England recorded average temperatures more than 10°F below normal in February. Temperatures were above average for the month in the West with areas in the northern Rocky Mountains recording average temperatures more than 10°F above normal. Precipitation levels for the month were generally within 2 inches of normal across the Nation. Areas with precipitation levels more than 2 inches below normal were reported in California and along the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
Winter wheat conditions declined over the previous month in some northern locations due to lack of protective snow cover. In Montana, the percent of the crop in the good to excellent categories dropped 14 percentage points since February 1 to 44 percent on March 1. In South Dakota, winter wheat conditions decreased 9 percentage points over the month to 49 percent good to excellent. In Kansas, conditions decreased 2 percentage points in the good to excellent categories to 44 percent on March 1. Alternatively, heavy winter storms in Colorado improved winter wheat protection leading to a 10 percentage point increase for the month, with 48 percent in the good to excellent categories on March 1.
In Arizona, alfalfa conditions were mostly fair to excellent, depending on location. Sheep continued to graze on various alfalfa fields in many areas. Barley conditions were mostly fair and durum wheat conditions were mostly good. Storms at the beginning and the end of the month helped maintain soil moisture levels throughout the State. Rangeland conditions vary widely from very poor to good, depending on location.
California wheat, oats, and other winter forage crops continued to grow well in February. Despite some beneficial precipitation during the month, some growers were irrigating to make up for the lack of rain. Field cultivation for spring planting continued throughout the month. Alfalfa fields were being cultivated and planted near the middle of the month and by the end of the month field preparations were underway for the spring planting of corn and cotton. Pruning and shredding took place in tree fruit orchards. Grape vineyard pruning was in full swing at the beginning of the month. By the end of the month, grapes were developing a couple of weeks earlier due to warm conditions. Ranchers continued to graze sheep and cattle on rangelands but more rain is needed to help long term development of foothill grasses and forbs. Bee hives were delivered for orchard pollination.
Winter wheat conditions throughout Texas were rated fair to good during February. Producers in the Southern High Plains reported greenbug and winter grain mites in fields, while the Blacklands experienced fungal pressure and rust on small grains. Field preparations began for corn, cotton, and sorghum planting, with 4 percent of the corn crop planted by March 1, 3 percentage points behind both last year and the 5-year average. Producers delayed corn planting in several areas of the State due to cold, wet weather. Range and pasture conditions were rated fair to good, with supplemental feeding continuing across the State.
In Florida, fieldwork and soil preparation continued throughout the month in the Panhandle, with cold weather and saturated soil reported in the area. Sugarcane harvest continued through February in Glades, Hendry, and Palm Beach counties but slowed later in the month due to rain. Pastures across the State continued to be in poor condition due to freezing temperatures and saturated soils. Ranchers were providing supplemental feed due to the lack of forage crops. Several citrus processing plants finished with early and midseason oranges during February and have transitioned to grapefruit and Valencia oranges. By the end of the month, field workers across the citrus region noticed full bloom on all citrus varieties and feathery new growth in well cared for groves.