Indiana farmers getting ready for spring planting can get a good idea of what they most likely will have to work with in April just by looking across their fields now.
Wet or dry conditions they see are unlikely to change much over the month, said State Climatologist Dev Niyogi, based at Purdue University. If the soils are in good shape now, they should be ready for planting on time. But for fields that are too wet now, farmers can expect planting delays.
"Our best indication of the trend at this stage is persistence in weather patterns we have been experiencing," Niyogi said. "We do not see anything drastically changing in the short term."
Niyogi said the weather likely will change toward more favorable conditions in the latter half of the growing season when an El Niño warming trend is expected to develop.
"This change comes on slowly," he said. "It takes several months before we get a good grip on trends."
For April, the average temperature could be about 2 to 4.5 degrees below normal for the month, with the worst cases in southern counties, according to an analysis by Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist. He reviewed temperatures over the past century and weather models of the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center, which believes that the winter pattern will continue over the U.S.
While the average temperature would be below normal, Scheeringa noted that it would show a trend toward moderation relative to the two previous months. Indiana's average temperature in February was about 8.7 degrees below normal, and March was running 6.6 degrees below normal.
Looking ahead through the end of June, Scheeringa said the average temperatures for the three months could be 0.4 degrees to 2.7 degrees below normal, with the worst cases again in the south.
Providing an outlook for precipitation is more difficult because there are no strong climatic signals for April, Scheeringa said. But he said if the cold pattern continues, Indiana could expect more of the Alberta clipper-type systems, which tend to carry less moisture when they go through the state.
Purdue Extension corn specialist Bob Nielsen said corn farmers should not be overly concerned about the weather forecast for spring planting. That is because planting date by itself has "little predictive power" for absolute yield potential.
"Yield is determined by the cumulative effects of the season-long multitude of yield-influencing factors," Nielsen said. "Growers should simply 'go with the flow' and deal with what Mother Nature gives them."
Although soybeans typically are planted after corn, Extension soybean specialist Shaun Casteel said soybeans are more responsive to timely planting than is corn. If farmers are delayed in planting corn until late April or early May, he said soybeans should be planted at the same time.
"Late April to early May planting of soybeans is more critical for soybeans than for corn," he said.