Climate, weather and farming: What is history telling us?
Whether you are growing a garden, corn or fruit trees, growing season length is an important factor in the success of your operation. In our region, the growing season has been getting longer. Much of the change has been due to earlier springs. As a result, green-up of overwintering crops in the Midwest is occurring 10 days earlier than just a few decades ago[ja1] . While the increase in growing season has benefits, there is also a downside. When it gets warm early, perennial plants break dormancy early and are then more vulnerable to freeze.
Rain is necessary for crop growth, but is not easily stored. The frequency and intensity of storms has increased since the beginning of the 20th century. On average, about 30 percent of the annual precipitation total across the region comes from just 10 daily events, and the number of these events has increased in recent decades. For Michigan, we see a range of 24 to 36 percent of our annual rain in just 10 daily events.
This is a summary of what historic data tell us about trends over time for the Midwest and, more specifically, Michigan. More details can be found in the full report.
Watching the weather is still an important part of day-to-day management decisions. However, studying historical trends may provide some insight into longer-term planning.