The hottest weather topic for 2014 was the lack of heat
If you had a sneaking suspicion that the 2014 growing season has been tracking cooler than normal, you’d be right.
The Midwestern Regional Climate Center tracked growing degree days (GDD) from May 1 to Aug. 3. It reported "departures from normal" ranging from -30 to -100 in states such as Missouri, Illinois and Indiana and deficits of -100 to -180 in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The cooler weather was most pronounced in July, when a weather phenomenon similar to January’s polar vortex pushed arctic air deep into the heart of the Corn Belt.
"There are several areas of South Dakota that have ranked in the top five to 10 coldest July so far," says South Dakota State University Extension climate field specialist Laura Edwards. "A lot of the Corn Belt had similar experiences."
Indeed, states across the Midwest and Mid-South saw a peppering of new coldest day or month records in July. Not that farmers are complaining, according to Rick Griesbach, an agronomist with Hintzsche Fertilizer in Maple Park, Ill.
"It’s been good for the corn because when corn pollinates in cool weather, it takes all the stress off the plant," he explains. "I think the bigger issue is that the cold weather killed the bug population. We have had below-average Japanese beetles, below-average aphids, and the rootworm is either missing or late."
Ohio farmer Joey Barker says aside from possible crop benefits, the cooler summer weather has benefited farmers, too.
"It was absolutely a much easier summer to spray," he says. "We didn’t have to fight the heat and could choose spray timing better."
Barker is hoping that the yields add up, too. So far, he’s seen the best alfalfa crop in a decade, and he’s witnessed the best wheat crop of all time. Like every other farmer who’s experienced cooperative weather this summer, he has his fingers crossed that Mother Nature will continue to be cooperative.
More cool weather. "Below average" will continue to be the best way to describe temperatures this fall, at least through October, according to "AgDay" meteorologist Mike Hoffman.
"For September, below-normal temperatures will be in the Dakotas, Kansas and eastern portions of the Rockies," he says. "October should be colder than normal for most of the Corn Belt."
The 90-day temperature outlook shows cooler-than-average weather is expected to continue.
Was It Really a ‘Polar Vortex’?
In mid-July, nighttime temperatures dipped into the 50s in many cities and even into the 40s in some suburban and rural areas. But was it really a polar vortex? Not exactly, explains Chris Anderson, the assistant director of Iowa State University’s climate science program.
Last winter, the vortex positioned over the arctic actually moved away and settled over Hudson’s Bay. In contrast, the July conditions saw a deepening of the vortex over Hudson’s Bay, but it was not due to a piece of an arctic vortex breaking away, Anderson explains. The system acted like a polar vortex in effect, but not in process, he says.
To keep a watchful eye on first frost potential and estimate black layer date then compare it to historical fall frost dates, visit www.FarmJournal.com/frost_decision_tool