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Source: Planalytics news release

The big news this week - from a weather perspective, at least - is that there is very little new to report.

According to NOAA, there was hardly any change between last week's soil temperatures and this week's, something that we also observed in our weekly GreenReport Vegetation Greenness map. More significant, perhaps, is the fact that there is very little difference in this year's soil temperatures compared to the same point in time last year.

Winter wheat and other grasses can develop at 40F, so we are beginning to see the effects of warmer soil temperatures as these crops come out of dormancy. Why the delay in soil warming in other areas, particularly in the South and Southeast?

The primary reason is the continuation of cold, sub-freezing air masses penetrating into the southern half of the U.S. On Wednesday, March 26, a hard freeze (temperatures colder than 28F for greater than two hours) occurred across 90 percent of the Deep South. How likely is it to have 28F at Scott, MS, or 25F at Birmingham, AL on March 26. Not very.

Planting Season Obstacles 2014

In the graphic above, the contours indicate the average last date of 32F or colder temperatures for any particular location. Note that both Scott, MS and Birmingham, AL are close to the March 15 contour. Both locations had a hard freeze on March 26, or roughly ten days later than the average.

Planting is likely not going to occur when you continue to see hard freezes. A report this week out of Louisiana stated that their corn planting progress has stalled at 1 percent of normal, compared to 100 percent completion which is typical for the end of March.

In spring of 2013, Midwest growing areas were cold and wet, which saw most of the Corn Belt states running 3 to 5 weeks behind the normal planting date. Portions of northeast Iowa never did get to plant corn.

The vast majority of the primary Corn Belt has an average last freeze date between April 15 and May 1. The northern Corn Belt states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan run about 15 days later, or May 1 to May 15.

Like last year, cold conditions are still prevalent over much of the Midwest, but the overall moisture profile, despite the snow during winter, has been drier than normal.

This year, once the soil temperatures start warming up, planting conditions will be more favorable due to an improved soil moisture profile that will allow equipment into the fields. Planting still might be later than normal, but earlier than 2013.

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