Mother Nature's grip isn't loosening.
Frigid temperatures gripped much of the U.S. this winter with acres of land under several feet of snow. It’s no surprise that the 2013-20144 winter was one for the record books.
"For six Midwestern states, it was the coldest winter since 1978-1979," says Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist.
Rippey says add to that record snowfalls in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Flint, Mich. Meanwhile, in states like Minnesota, what’s happening underground is a reminder of just how brutal this past winter has been.
"The cold weather came in in the fall before the snow fell, so in the northern Corn Belt, we have some phenomenal frost depths that range from five to seven feet," he says.
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While the snow is finally melting across much of the Midwest, the frost isn’t budging.
"Across the north, the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota through Michigan, that’s where we have a lot of thawing," says Rippey. "We have to get that snow off the ground before we even think about spring field work and planting."
He says another area to keep a close eye on is the eastern Corn Belt and states like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
"Those areas have seen a lot of snow, as well, but of course we don't have the deep frost to deal with there, it's not nearly as deep," explains Rippey. "So, depending on how spring weather patterns turn out, it could be some delayed plating in the lower Midwest, as well."
Last year at this time, northeast Indiana farmer Joe Caffee was finishing up field work and just days away from breaking ground to plant. This year, that’s not the case.
"In northeast Indiana the soil is extremely cold and wet," says Caffee. "We had snow again this week. Right now, all the seed is safe in the barn and still in the bags."