Cooler temperatures could slow down early weed and specialty crop growth

The state climatologist for Illinois says cooler forecasted temperatures could slow down early plant and weed growth.

Trent Ford tells Brownfield models are predicting cooler and wetter than normal conditions through mid-March.

“It is weird to think about colder than normal conditions because the winter has been so mild, but unseasonably cold for the middle part of March looks to be what those models are leaning towards.”

He says the milder winter has pushed plant and weed growth about 3 weeks ahead of schedule. “We have seen reports of spring bulbs coming up as far north as the western suburbs and also some peach trees beginning to show signs of breaking buds.”

But, the cooler weather could slow that down. Ford suggests that’s good news for farmers because it reduces the risk of spring freeze damage. “A warmer winter really says nothing about the risk of spring freeze. Some of our warmest winters on record have had very late spring freezes, for example 2012 and 2017. So, it does not mean we are out of the woods for that.”

He says while the cooler, wetter forecast is good for row crop weed management, conditions won’t allow for much field work in the next couple of weeks. “Beyond that, hopefully we can get into a bit of a warming trend where we can see some of those wet soil issues maybe dissipate.”

But, Ford says models are predicting wetter than normal conditions for most of the growing season.

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