In Thursday’s Newsmaker, we hear from Agricultural Meteorologist Ryan Martin about the possible affects on crops.

The forecast is calling for frost over a good chunk of farm country this weekend (Friday night, May 8, into Saturday morning, May 9). Frost in the forecast is nothing new in farm country. Ryan Martin is an ag meteorologist from Warsaw, Indiana, who says the frost forecast covers a large area.

“We are looking at the axis of the coldest air coming across eastern Minnesota, Wisconsin, east-to-northeast Iowa, northern Illinois, most of Indiana, all of Ohio, and all of Michigan. This is the zone that we’re seeing temperatures at 30 degrees or colder. The coldest air looks like it’s going to hit Michigan and Ohio, where we could see some very big impacts in Ohio on soft red winter wheat.”

The coldest air looks like it’s going to hit Michigan and Ohio, where we could see some very big impacts in Ohio on soft red winter wheat.

He says frost in the forecast is not good timing for winter wheat.

“Wheat has woken up and come out of dormancy, you’ve got jointing going on, and anytime you get farther along in the growth stage process, you’re more susceptible, not just to cold air, but when wheat is just breaking dormancy, if you get a cold snap, you’ve got to be under 28 degrees for three, four, or five hours. If you get into some of these jointing stages and things farther up the chain, wheat can barely handle 30 degrees for an hour or two, so that’s where the issue lies on wheat.”

Martin is more optimistic about corn and soybeans making it through the frost. Even where crops have emerged, the growing point is still likely below ground yet, which means mortality rates should be low. He says cold air is moving down from Canada and going to hang around farm country for several days before the temps swing back the other way.

“Really focusing on the Great Lakes, Upper Midwest, and the northeastern part of the United States. What I find interesting here is we see this kind of pattern going through late next week. We start to see temperatures moderate on the 13th, 14th, and 15th, and then switch it. We go above normal in the eastern part of the Corn Belt while the Plains could drop and go below normal as we go into the last part of the month of May, so we have a lot of air currents, different movements here, different patterns trying to emerge, and it all has to do with where polar air is shifting to this time of year.”

Martin says it’s not unheard of to see temps in May go back and forth.

“It’s not unusual. We’ve seen big swings before. I think the reason why it’s coming home to roost a little bit more this year and making more people stand back and scratch their heads is we’ve had pretty decent springs going back the past number of years, we’ve come out of winter early, we’ve been able to hit the ground running on temperatures, at least. Last year, precipitation was a problem, but the temperatures were still okay last year. This year is the first out of the past five or so that’s really showed us the variability that you can see in spring.”  

Again, Ryan Martin is an agricultural meteorologist from Warsaw, Indiana.