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Northeast crop progress: Cold and dry ruled

Corn planting in the Northeast started out slowly due to cold and predominantly dry conditions. That should change this week.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

May 6, 2016

4 Min Read

This is our first Northeast Crop Progress report of the 2016 season, compiled from the National Ag Statistics Service’s Northeast field office reporters for last week. It doesn’t include the major wet weather front that moved through the Mid-Atlantic region early this week.

As one reporter put it, “It is seasonable spring weather.” – whatever that is – too cold, too dry, too unpredictable – nothing new in farming.

CHILLY PLANTING WEATHER: Last week’s general dry conditions helped ready Northeast farmers gear up for a big push this week once soils dry enough to plant.

Delaware and Maryland
Both states moved into corn planting season with adequate-to-surplus topsoil and subsoil moisture – 96% in Delaware and 84% in Maryland. Wet conditions may have slowed corn planting, but accelerated barley heading, due in part to 40 to 60 higher growing degree days than normal. However, both states reported 1- to 1.5-inch deficits of rainfall for the month of April. Even so, pasture and winter wheat crop conditions were mostly fair to good.

Last week, Delaware farmers finished planting 22% of intended corn acreage, compared to a 34% five-year average. Maryland farmers completed planting of 17% of their corn acreage, compared to a 25% five-year average.

New England
This six-state region was predominantly cold and dry during the last week of April. Rainfall deficits varied widely, but most fell in the 1- to 2-inch deficit from April precipitation norms. That put topsoil moisture levels at 33% short and 57% adequate while subsoil levels were 25% short and 64% adequate – not the best for this time of year, note crop reporters. That also influenced pasture conditions which ranged from 10% very poor, 37% poor, 19% fairy and 34% good.

Growing degree days generally ran 15 to 50 GDDs above normal. But Maine and New Hampshire crop reporters noted ice-cold rain and snow during the last week.

The dry weather allowed field preparations for planting of early-season crops – corn, potatoes, cabbage, kale, lettuce and parsley. But corn and sweet corn plantings were just getting underway.

New Jersey
While the Garden State received a shot of warmer weather, cold and dry conditions set the work schedules for last week. Planting of field and food crops was just getting underway.

April rainfall remained on the deficit side of normal averaging 1 to 2 inches below the April norm. Even so, growing degree days were 30 to 70 GDDs above normal for April.

Top soil moisture levels ranged from 11% very short, to 16% short, 58% adequate and 15% surplus. Subsoil levels ranged from 22% short, to 60% adequate and 17% surplus. Hay crop conditions were 32% fair and 64% good. Most pastures (99%) fell in the fair to good categories, and 99% of winter wheat were reported in the same condition.

New York
Despite cold and dry conditions across the Empire State, planting of corn and cabbage was just getting underway. Topsoil moisture ran 91% adequate to surplus while 90% of subsoil moistures were in the same range.

April rainfall deficits at reporting sites ranged from 1 to 3 inches below normal. Again, growing degree days were averaging 20 to 30 GDDs above normal

Most hay crops and pastures fell into the fair to good condition categories. Winter wheat crop conditions were better – 25% fair, 54% good and 18% excellent.

Crop reporters reported that corn planting was just getting underway last week. They were looking forward to expected rains that arrived early this week.

Crop reporters were relieved that the “perpetual spell of dry weather” was being broken with welcome rains to held field crops going into the weekend. Some 34% of the Keystone State’s intended corn acreage was in the ground, compared to 12% for the five-year average. And soybean planting had already started with 5% in the ground and waiting for rain.

Pennsylvania went into the first week of May with most regions reporting precipitation deficits of 1 to 1.5 inches for April. Here, too, April’s growing degree days were still running higher – 40 to 70 GDDs on the average.

That helps explain why barley heading was rated at 43%, compared to 25% for the five-year average. Winter wheat’s crop condition ranged from 22% good and 61% good, to 16% excellent.

Several crop reporters mentioned the cold, dry spring may shorten forage yields and supplies this spring. Some 90% to 94% of the state’s hay and alfalfa crops were in the fair to good condition categories. Only 79% of pastures were in those ranges as of May 1.   

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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