Cool and wet spring slowing down planting season 2018

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SDSU Extension

BROOKINGS — Spring is slow to come this year, as late season snowstorms continue to impact South Dakota.

“Indeed, as of April 10, this is currently the coldest start to April on record for many locations in the state,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension state climatologist.

She explained that during the first third of the month, air temperatures were 12 to 20 degrees below average nearly everywhere statewide.

Crop planting

It will come as no surprise that soil temperatures are struggling this season.

Although most of Central and Southern areas are thawed out through the profile, Northern and Eastern areas still have some frost in the soil profile. According to the South Dakota Mesonet (, as of April 10, frost depth was still 2 to 4-feet deep in the Northeast.

“As we are entering into the early season for corn planting, per the crop insurance rules, we have a little way to go before the soils are ready for corn seeds,” Edwards said.

When considering planting conditions, ideal soil temperatures for corn are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Currently, the South Dakota Mesonet is measuring 30 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit at 4-inch depth. This is about 12 degrees cooler than last year at this time for most locations.

For spring wheat germination, ideal soil temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so even that crop is slow to get planted this year in many areas.


A lot of gardeners are asking when the last frost will occur.

Although average last frost ranges from late April to mid-May, moving from east to west across the state; this growing season Edwards said an exact date is not clear.

“The climate outlook through April 24, continues to show a cool and wet pattern across the state, transitioning to warmer and drier conditions the last few days of the month,” Edwards said.

She said the active storm track will likely continue during this time.

April climate outlook

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Climate Outlook, April 2018 will be slow to warm and looks to continue the current cool and wet pattern.

The weather has proven to be most challenging for South Dakota’s livestock producers who are in the midst of calving and lambing. Wildlife have also suffered.

“In the long run, the additional moisture will be beneficial for improving drought conditions in pastures and grazing areas, and providing early season soil moisture in cropping areas,” Edwards said.

She added, “Spring-like weather will come, as it always does, and we will embrace the warm weather.”

iGrow graphic
Figure 1. Soil temperature at four inch depth as of April 11, 2018. Courtesy of SD Mesonet,