Thursday, May 9, 2013

April Showers Bring May Flowers? | by Dustin Wilcox

Following the 2012 drought, which gripped much of the heart of the United States and left many crops and water supplies severely strained, there has been much attention and discussion directed towards weather conditions leading into the 2013 cropping season. As weather has begun to impact the planting season, we’re seeing it capturing headlines again. 

Following what was a cold, but overall typical winter for Valley, NE, and for many across the corn belt, Mother Nature has decided to spite that pesky groundhog, and provide us weather contrary to his early spring forecast; it now seems like an eternity since "Punxsutawney Phil" said spring was just 6 weeks away! Last year, spring-like weather had arrived by late February in Nebraska, and in much of the corn belt, with March 2012 averaging about 15 degrees above normal for the month in Eastern Nebraska, which helped set the stage for early corn planting, with a lot of corn being planted in the Valley area as early as the first week in April; much earlier than typically seen. 

While few expected a repeat of the 2012 rendition of February showers bringing March flowers, this year has proved to provide exactly the opposite: March saw temps average substantially below normal and April definitely followed suit, with the weather leaving soil temperatures, and the subsequent signs of spring, substantially delayed. According to USDA reports (, last year at this time, nearly half of the corn crop had been planted, while this year, weather conditions have allowed for only 5% of this year’s corn crop to be planted. Given the forecast here in Valley was calling for snow last week (only second time in recorded history of snowfall in May), and the forecast for most of the corn belt remains cool and wet this week, it appears the corn crop will only be further behind. 

While the merchants and growers who race to have that first batch of fresh, local sweet corn available at farmers markets haven’t appreciated this spring postponement, this cooler weather, as a previous blog post on drought indicated, has at least played in the favor of short-term drought relief for many. Cool weather initially allowed for slow thawing and minimal runoff of what snowpack existed, and parts of the plains have experienced several rounds of light, but persistent, soaking rains, and through the eastern corn belt, the weather pattern favored adequate winter moisture followed by more recent heavy rains that have served to eradicate the drought conditions entirely; in fact, some areas of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois have even had to battle record-breaking flooding. While areas of extreme and exceptional drought still exist across the plains, the overall trend of the past couple months has been for a gradual decrease in the coverage and intensity of the drought. 

That being said, with last year’s drought still fresh in all of our minds, there have been very few people in this part of the country not excited to see the April showers, though as planters continue to sit idle in sheds, sheltered from the late spring snow, anxious farmers are growing more and more antsy. Although delighted with the April showers we’ve had, most all of us are ready for more seasonable temperatures and the May flowers that are certainly soon to come; while we look forward to a favorable window for getting the 2013 crops in the ground, we’re hopeful for a sustained pattern of drought relief leading into a prosperous summer growing season!

Dustin Wilcox
Applications Specialist

Dustin, an Eastern Nebraska native, joined Valley Irrigation in 2011. Today, he works in the Irrigation Applications department, providing product support to Valley dealers. 
Dustin most enjoys working with and implementing new irrigation technologies that strive to improve on-farm efficiencies, achieving conservation goals while subsequently improving farm profits. 
In his spare time, you can find Dustin watching the weather and wandering the plains, where he logs over 10,000 miles every spring in his storm chasing vehicle. To date, he has filmed and documented well over 100 tornadoes.