Cold spring is slowing early field work


WOOSTER, Ohio — More than one farmer has vowed to shoot Punxsutawney Phil this year, after the legendary weather prognosticator apparently got it wrong about an early spring.

Groundhog Phil emerged Feb. 2 with no shadow — supposedly a sign that spring was near.

But below-normal temperatures were recorded in March for most of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the latest report from the National Weather Service says both states will be 10-15 degrees below normal this week.

Some places in the East could see as much as 20 degrees below normal, with daytime highs struggling to top 40 degrees.

It’s nearly the opposite of last year, when multiple days in the 70s and 80s had already been recorded, and farmers were planting row crops as early as ever.

Cooler April

Jim Noel, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, predicted a cooler-than-normal April following a couple warm days at the end of March.

“Everything remains on track for the overall colder pattern to remain intact into the first half of April before things moderate,” he said, in a recent article for Ohio State University’s C.O.R.N. newsletter. “A cooler than normal weather pattern will return in early April.”

Noel said to expect 4-inch soil temperatures to be below normal in April, which may delay planting for some. Also, the risk for late season freezes in April is also elevated based on the cold weather recorded in March.

By comparison

The USDA released its first Crop Progress report of the year April 1. In Ohio, 46 percent of winter wheat was in good condition, with just 10 percent considered excellent. In Pennsylvania, winter wheat is 58 percent good, with 15 percent excellent.

Pennsylvania also noted that topsoil moisture is 72 percent adequate and 28 percent surplus, with no moisture shortages.

“I think most guys are starting to get a little antsy,” said Ralph Wince, grain merchandiser for Agland Co-op of Canfield.

But at the same time, Wince said it’s early and the concern is not extreme.

There has been some concern among farmers who are trying to apply anhydrous ammonia, but he said the size of applicators today can get the job done pretty quickly, once conditions are ideal. And in worst case, some farmers will just apply anhydrous post-planting.

“If push comes to shove, guys will plant and then go back in and side-dress with anhydrous,” he said.

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension educator in Wayne County, said not much is growing yet, whether it’s pasture grass, weeds or just about anything.

But, this year’s weather might be better, he said. When temperatures hit the 70s and 80s last year in March, they were followed by frosts that damaged early growth, especially for fruit and produce farmers.

“This type of spring is probably better in the long run,” he said.


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