By Jim Isleib, Michigan State University Extension
Farmers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are finding crop conditions in 2015 warmer and drier than last year.
Farmers notice weather conditions most when they are bad – real bad. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and across much of the state, that’s how it was in 2014 – real bad. The 2015 season has been much better in the U.P. region. Information from Michigan State University Enviroweather gives a good comparison for Escanaba, Michigan, area planting and harvest conditions as well as overall temperatures between this year and last year.
Total rainfall for the April 1 - Oct. 20 crop growing season in 2014 was 24.01 inches. In 2015, only 16.32 inches of rain fell in the same period. The five-year average is 20.59 inches, so 2014 was above average and 2015 was below average. It is interesting to note the difference during planting and harvest times when too much moisture can be disastrous.
During the period of May 1-20, 2014, there were 15 rainy days with 2.54 inches of rainfall. During the same period in 2015, there were only six rainy days with 1.84 inches of rain. The 2014 planting season was very wet and crop planting was often delayed.
Harvest season comparison is similar, with 9.98 inches of rain from Aug. 20 - Oct. 20, 2014 (25 days of rain in a 62-day period), and 4.28 inches of rain from Aug. 20 - Oct. 20, 2015 (19 days of rain in a 62-day period). In 2014, soils were so wet in some areas that corn could not be chopped for silage and was left standing for grain harvest. However, it was cold and the grain did not mature. The corn was left standing over winter and either harvested for grain in spring or left unharvested. This results in losses for farmers.
Overall, 2015 has been drier than average and some crops have suffered, but it was still a better crop year than 2014.
Temperatures for crops are calculated in “growing degree days” based on the lowest temperature needed for a particular crop to actively grow. For alfalfa, that temperature is 41 degrees; for corn, it is 50 degrees.
Growing degree days (GDD) for time period of April 1 - Oct. 20 in 2014 and 2015
GDD base 41
GDD base 50
This should give an idea about how much colder it was during the period in 2014 compared with 2015. Crops had a better chance to develop in 2015. In 2014, they had a double whammy – cold weather combined with excess rainfall.