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Ag Weather Update

Matt Dixon, Meteorologist

UK Ag Weather Center

Updated 4-14-23 at 3:30PM EDT

Dry and mild start to April

Happy Friday, folks! Following a dry and mild stretch of weather to start April, planting season has officially commenced in Kentucky. Below is a look at the month-to-date observed and departure-from-normal precipitation across Kentucky through April 13th. Overall, the state has only averaged an inch over that period. Many of the major "row crop" counties across Western and Central KY are even under a half inch.

Temperatures have cooperated, too! High temps have jumped into the 70s and even the 80s over numerous days. We even saw the Owsley County Mesonet Station hit 90 degrees on April 5th! Unreal! This is about 25 degrees above normal for this time of year. The mild air is translating to some favorable soil temperatures for spring planting. Many throughout Western and Central KY have seen those 2-inch temperatures increase into the 60s and 70s during the heat of the day. Below is one example, which shows the Union County soil temperatures over the past week, courtesy of the Kentucky Mesonet. You can check there website, here, for a look at 2-inch soil temperatures across the state.

Now...the numbers above are the MAXIMUMS for the day. We're really interested in the AVERAGE, which will be a large player in uniform emergence. As Dr. Lee explained here, we need 2" inch soil temperatures to average in the low 60s in order for corn to emerge within 10 days of planting. We've hit that mark over the past few days and conditions continue to look relatively favorable moving forward.

Looking at the forecast, we're ending the workweek with some rain chances as an area of low pressure to the south slowly wobbles to the northeast. The higher end of the rainfall coverage will likely be located across the eastern half of the state and subside as you move west. In fact, most of western KY will likely stay dry. Some storms have already starting moving into SE KY this afternoon. If caught under a storm, totals could reach around a half inch, but a tenth to a quarter inch will likely be more common.

Another chance of showers arrives on Saturday night and into Sunday as a cold front works through Kentucky. Another quarter inch or so will be possible here and there. Again though, no washouts! If you're planting across Western and Central KY, I don't see much in the way of stoppages. Below is a look at those 3-day forecast totals. Overall, we're looking at a tenth to a half inch+ over the next few days from west to east. The first half of the upcoming workweek then features another stretch of dry conditions.

Temperature-wise, we'll cool down a bit behind the aforementioned cold front (50s and 60s), but will be back into the 70s statewide by Wednesday. In fact, 80s look to be in play next Thursday. Outlooks suggest above normal temperatures will then continue over the 2nd half of the week (map below). Looking into the 2 week time frame (April 21-27), the outlooks lean toward near normal precipitation and temperatures.

Something else that has caught my eye is the 3 to 4 week outlooks below. Granted, we are still a ways out, but both hint at favorable planting conditions continuing into the end of April and start of May. The precipitation outlook even has a bullseye of below normal precipitation over the Lower Ohio Valley. This is something to watch as we move forward into the warmer months of the year (dryness), but for right now, we're looking fine.

As a side note to end the update, last week we had a storm system that produced six tornadoes across Kentucky on April 5th, including some that hit the city of Louisville. This is a reminder that we are heading into peak tornado season and we need to have safety plans in place. Know where you will shelter in case of a warning and have multiple ways to receive warning. If you haven't bought a NOAA Weather Radio, I would highly recommend to get one as soon as possible. Just an interesting tidbit, the preliminary count of tornadoes across the United States is at a record high in 2023 over the first three months of the year.

The power of these things are unreal. We all saw what happened back on December 10th in 2021, but "weak" tornadoes can also be VERY dangerous. Tornado intensity is measured based on various damage indicators and varying degrees of damage. Ultimately, a tornado is then rated anywhere from an EF0 (weakest) to an EF5 (strongest) on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Below is a picture from a farm in Southeastern Illinois that was hit by tornado on March 31st. This was actually considered EF-1 damage, on the low end of the EF-scale, but the damage was still tremendous.

It's hard to fathom how Mother Nature can pick up a 30,000+ pound semi-trailer and place it on a field cultivator, but sure enough, an EF-1 made it happen. Bottom line, if you're under a tornado warning, take them seriously. You don't want to mess with this kind of power!

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Related News from UK and Beyond

Kentucky Crop Progress and Condition Report - USDA NASS Kentucky Field Office, April 10, 2023

UK Corn and Soybean Newsletter - UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, April 2023

UK Wheat Science News - UK Research and Education Center, April 12, 2023

Start the Growing Season on a Positive with a Successful Burndown - Dr. Travis Legleiter, UK Extension Weed Science Specialist, April 11, 2023

Fire Blight Alert & Risk Map Overview - Dr. Nicole Gauthier, UK Plant Pathology Extension Specialist and Kimberly Leonberger, UK Plant Pathology Extension Associate, April 11, 2023

Overview of the Tornadoes and Severe Weather of April 5, 2023 - Paducah, KY National Weather Service Office

Storms and tornadoes of April 5, 2023 - Louisville, KY National Weather Service Office


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