Tools of the Trade: 2018 predictions for the Drought Monitor

February 22, 2018 / by Dr. David Kee, Minnesota Soybean's Director of Research Categories: David Kee, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Soybean News

Spring is on its way, planters are being prepared, seed is starting to arrive and some planting decisions, such as variety selection, have already been made. We are all ready to get started, or for the snow to melt at the very least.

Time to look at the weather.

I frequently look at the Drought Monitor to see the weather forecasts. Currently, (Feb 13 forecast) about 26 percent of Minnesota is in dry-to- moderate drought status – mostly in the west, with the central west region being the largest area. The remainder of the state is within normal range, possibly a bit above normal.

The National Weather Service (NWS) provides the information for the climatic outlook. Clicking on the outlook link brings up predicted temperature and precipitation until spring (March-April-May) 2019. Reviewing these predictions brings up some interesting possibilities.

NWS predicts precipitation will be above normal during planting time (April-May-June) in 2018, then approaching equal chances of drought/excessive moisture, and normal Minnesota rainfall until spring (March-April-May) 2019. NWS predicts equal chances of above-or below-normal temperatures during planting and throughout the growing season. What is interesting is the temperature at harvest (mid-September to mid-November) is predicted to be above normal.

What does that mean to you?

It appears you will face normal conditions at planting. Some of you will get in early, some of you will finish late, a lot of you will have to deal with both early and late planted beans. Many of you try to be planted early to maximize yield in case an early fall frost terminates your crop. A warmer than normal fall lengthens the growing season and limits the potential of damage from an early frost.

Obviously, precipitation affects both planting date and yield potential. Above-normal precipitation is predicted for the entire state during April-May-June, and for the eastern half in May-June-July. With the exception of counties in far southwest Minnesota, most of the state is in the equal chances (EC) for normal rainfall during the summer (June-July-August). After June, EC is the predicted status for the rest of the year.

Does this mean you should wait and plant your beans whenever you get around to it? Not hardly.

Farming is a game of hedging your risks. A warm fall can still have an early killing frost. Farmers will still have to deal with weeds, aphids, SCN, IDC and all the other issues associated with producing a soybean crop. Planting timely will always be your best bet. Don’t bet the farm on NWS predictions.

In my opinion, these predictions mean using a slightly longer than usual maturity group (say a 1.9 instead of a 1.5 in central Minnesota) might be of benefit. If you have an area that you can usually plant early and harvest late, the 2018 season might be long enough to capture a greater than average yield by using a longer maturity group. You just might hit that 100 bushel per acre target.

David Kee is the director of research at Minnesota Soybean and can be reach at 507-388-1635 or david@mnsoybean.com

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