Now Reading: Implications of Cold, Wet Midwestern Weather on Spring Planting and Fertility Management

Implications of Cold, Wet Midwestern Weather on Spring Planting and Fertility Management

by Dr. Jeff Massey, Senior Atmospheric Scientist, and Dr. Steven De Gryze, Scientific Software Engineering Manager, Climate LLC

April 23, 2018


Last year at this time, some of the Midwest was affected by abnormally wet weather which contributed to planting delays and other issues for farmers. Early spring weather conditions are creating challenges for farmers again this year. So far in April, cold, wet, and even snowy conditions have persisted across the Midwest. In fact, a snowstorm that occurred April 13-15 produced the largest April snow event on record for Minneapolis, Minn. and the second largest snow event for any month in Green Bay, Wis.

Increased Soil Moisture Causing a Shift In Field Management Strategies

The abnormally cold and snowy spring following a very frigid winter has resulted in exceptionally cool soil temperatures. Much of the soil is still frozen across Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas even though these areas should already be seeing soil temperatures in the mid 40s (F). Precipitation has also been well above normal over the Great Lakes in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, but below normal in other areas with severe drought conditions developing in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Because of the cold and wet soils, planting progress is behind schedule across much of the Midwest, and farmers who have already planted are questioning what this means for their crops in the ground and what input strategies they should use moving forward.

Weather-Related Challenges for Planting and Fertility Management

So what do these colder-and-wetter-than-normal conditions mean? Farmers who have not planted may experience delays as they wait for drier and warmer (typically greater than 55°F) weather before hitting the fields. For those who have already planted, this cold and wet weather creates a need to examine impact to their crops in the ground, including fertility plans:

  • Farmers in impacted areas must consider how to navigate potentially diminishing nitrogen levels in the soil, especially from leaching, the loss of soluble minerals and inputs caused by heavy rainfall.
  • They must also look ahead to determine how slow organic mineralization due to cold temperatures might reduce nitrogen availability to plants early in the season.

Navigating Wet, Cold Weather Issues On Your Farm

To help you adapt to abnormal conditions, the FieldView™ platform features easy-to-use solutions:

  • Determine if it’s too wet to work in your fields and get field-level rainfall estimates that can help you make short-term decisions with FieldView™ rainfall reports. You can also subscribe to FieldView™ platform weather notifications by emailing us at or calling us at 1.888.924.7475.
  • Find out how nitrogen levels may be affected by the recent cold, wet weather with FieldView™ nitrogen management tools. These resources can help you find potential shortfalls so you can adjust your nitrogen plan moving forward as necessary.
  • Throughout the year, you can use the FieldView™ platform to monitor nitrogen status by field zone and use this information to build variable rate nitrogen scripts to meet goals and protect yield.

While you can’t control the weather, you can adapt to it, and FieldView platform tools and resources can help you as move through planting season and beyond.

Looking ahead, the cold and stormy pattern looks to abate over the next couple of weeks as we head into May, allowing farmers opportunities to get into the field and plant. Cold soils may linger in certain areas of the Midwest, but you can count on Climate LLC to stay on top of changes in the weather so you can be as prepared as possible.

About The Authors

Jeff Massey is the atmospheric science technical lead for Climate LLC. He has a Ph.D. in atmospheric science and has been with Climate for almost three years, focusing on delivering agronomically relevant weather information to the organization.

Steven De Gryze is a scientific software engineering manager for Climate LLC. He has a Ph.D in environmental sciences and master’s degrees in statistics and environmental sciences from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.