All across the east, winter storms popped up in the news almost weekly. With excess snow, not a lot of field work got done. Now, farmers in northwest Ohio are thawing out and rushing to get fields prepped before seed can even go into the ground this year.
"We had the worst year on snowfall that I can ever remember," says Dick Snyder, a farmer in Delta, Ohio.
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"We had over 84 inches of snow total this winter," adds Jake Heilmann, a Whitehouse, Ohio, farmer. "We had snow cover from New Year's Day up until April 3. So, we've really only started to thaw out the last two weeks."
That’s twice the amount of their average snowfall all winter. With patches of fresh snow on the ground a week ago, they say it has felt more like March than April. The fields are wet, but aren't drowning in water like many thought.
"This will dry out," says Heilmann. "It’s amazing how well the ground tolerated it without seeing ponding. So, I don't think it's going to be an issue, but we just have to do our best to be patient."
Not rushing into the field too soon is Heilmann's biggest challenge right now. As of last week, many farmers were three weeks behind in spring field work. Thanks to sunny weather and missing a rain last weekend, the Heilmann’s caught up on their fertilizer applications in about a week. While the ground may be ready to plant, patience is a battle, as temperatures still need to shoot higher before any seed goes in the ground in northwest Ohio.
"Last year we started planting corn May 1st," says Heilmann. "And we planted it all in seven days. Then, tucked the beans in May 10 through the 13th. So, as far as planting goes, we're not behind yet."
As of Monday, April 21, 2013, the USDA showed none of Ohio’s corn crop had been planted, which is 10 points behind the five-year average. Like Heilmann, Snyder isn't concerned about not being in the field yet, either. Thanks to sandy soils, the dirt in the area is very forgiving, and planting can happen quickly when needed.
"When it warms up, we could have three-quarters inch of rain one day and be planting corn in two days again," he says.
The sandy soil may be good for rainy years, but it also causes heavy pest pressure.
"We don't know what the winter did for us or didn't do," says Snyder.
The brutal winter also could create other challenges during the growing season in some areas.