Non-stop field activity in Southwest Michigan this last week

Watch out for tractors (and tired tractor drivers).

Southwest region of Michigan.Southwest Michigan.

If you were to sum up the agricultural communities thoughts and activities in Southwest Michigan into a single word this week, it would have to be “go.” Soil moisture conditions have been good to allow for tillage and planting. Equipment has been working in fields pretty much non-stop for the last several days. The temperatures have also begun to moderate. Daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, and even an 80 degree day or two in the forecast, should kick this slow start growing season into a higher gear.

Temperatures and GDD accumulations

The normal heat accumulation (Base 50 GDD’s) is around 9 per day for the next five days, and then increases to 11 per day over the next five. Most Enviro-weather stations are reporting that 70-80 GDD’s Base 50 have accumulated. This means that corn planted on May 1 still should have a little more time before it emerges. However, with temperatures in the 80s in the forecast, early planted corn should soon be emerging. Soybeans planted at our SDS research site in Decatur on May 3 were cracking the soil on May 10. The 6 to 10 day outlook from NOAA has the region near normal in temperature range, shifting to above normal in the 8 to 14 day period.

Precipitation summary

Precipitation levels over the last seven days have been less than 0.5 inches over most of the region. Soils have generally been dry enough to raise dust at the surface, with good moisture underneath. Thunderstorms on the evening of May 11 dropped between 0.3 and 0.6 of an inch in areas of Berrien, Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties. Portions of Allegan and Ottawa counties may have had as much as 1.5 inches in isolated areas. The 6 to 10 day outlook has us in the below normal precipitation zone, but the 8 to 14 day outlook has us back into greater than normal precipitation levels.

Alfalfa growth has picked up briskly. Canopy height is now in the 12- to 14-inch range. Alfalfa weevil tip feeding has begun. The fields I walked have only light amounts of damage at this time. However, the pest is active and warrants attention on the part of growers. Some fields may have more pressure. Base 41 GDD’s for alfalfa development range from 381 at Fennville to 456 at Berrien Springs. We are still quite a way from the optimal cutting date. The first cutting is looking pretty good at this time.


Wheat is growing rapidly with the warmer temperatures. Advanced fields are approaching Feeke’s Stage 7, two visible nodes (view Feekes' stage diagram). There is some light powdery mildew legions forming on the lower leaves in a few fields. I have not seen any development upward in the canopy.

Corn and soybeans planting is moving along nicely. Corn planting might be at the 50 percent mark here this week. I have not seen emerged corn or soybeans yet. Questions asked this week have mainly been focused on starter fertilizers, Bt corn refuge requirements, burn-down herbicide timing before tillage and weed species ID.

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