State Climatologist talks southeast MN weather

The weather throughout fall and during the transition to winter can only be described as interesting. It’s been awhile since I was doing play-by-play for a high school football game during early November and actually had to take my winter jacket off because the press box was actually quite comfortable. I would imagine outside chores have been much less taxing during the nice fall weather too.

Conditions are going to change at some point. We know that here in southeast Minnesota. Colder weather and snow will be coming starting next week, but the question is how cold and how much?

State Climatologist Mark Seeley talks southeast Minnesota weather

Mark Seeley is a climatologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. (photo from mprnews.org)

Mark Seeley of the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. He’s a professor, a climatologist, and the main guy Minnesota media has turned to with weather questions for decades. I first met Mark while at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls. He was at the annual Farmfest event down the road near Morgan, Minnesota, and a fellow broadcaster said I needed to talk to Mark if I wanted to do a weather segment.

My most recent weather assignment comes from my freelance reporting job with Bluff Country News Group. We wanted to know what the upcoming winter would look like so I gave Mark a call and had a visit. The 2016 calendar year weather conditions in southeast Minnesota have been record-setting, with too much heat and moisture. I wanted to know how much heat and moisture have hit the area and this is what Mark had to say:

MDA encourages farmers to use soil temperature to guide fall nitrogen application timing

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) advises farmers and fertilizer applicators to check soil temperatures when timing application of ammonium-based nitrogen fertilizers this fall.

fall nitrogen

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture wants farmers to use soil temperatures as a guide to proper fall nitrogen applications. (photo from farmindustrynews.com)

“In areas where fall nitrogen applications are appropriate, soil temperature, not harvest progress, should be your guide of when to apply,” says Bruce Montgomery, manager of the MDA Fertilizer Management Section. “Waiting until soil temperature stays below 50º F before applying anhydrous ammonia and urea increases the availability of nitrogen to next season’s crop and decreases the amount of nitrate that could potentially leach into groundwater.”

Soil temperature is measured at a six-inch depth; the same depth anhydrous ammonia is typically applied. To help farmers know when the target 50º F soil temperature has been reached, the MDA has established 21 real-time, statewide soil temperature monitoring stations, (http://gis.mda.state.mn.us/soiltemp). Station data is updated every 15 minutes with the help of satellite uplink technology from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the National Weather Service.

Mark Seeley

Mark Seeley is a climatologist for the University of Minnesota. (Photo from mpmnews.com)

According to Dr. Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist, on average soil temperatures reach 50º F during the first week in October in northern Minnesota and the fourth week of October in southern Minnesota.

In addition to delaying application until soil temperatures stay below 50º F, best management practices for nitrogen use developed by the University of Minnesota Extension recommend using a nitrification inhibitor when fall applying anhydrous ammonia and urea in south-central Minnesota. In southeast Minnesota’s karst region and statewide on coarse-textured soils, fall application of nitrogen fertilizer is not recommended regardless of soil temperature. Specific nitrogen use recommendations by region of the state are at www.mda.state.mn.us/nitrogenbmps.

The MDA has announced plans to develop a rule over the next two to three years which will restrict fall nitrogen fertilizer application in areas vulnerable to groundwater contamination. This would include southeast Minnesota’s karst region and statewide on coarse-textured soils. The rulemaking is part of the state’s revised Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan which was completed March of this year. For more information on the plan, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/nfmp.