Unseasonably high temperatures have allowed Illinois farmers to work in the fields, but many of them are wondering how the weather will affect their crops and orchards.
The Illinois State Climatologist Office said February's statewide average temperature was 40.1 degrees as of Tuesday. Warmer-than-normal temperatures are forecast for the first half of March, too.
State climatologist Jim Angel said the temperatures have raised concerns that a sudden freeze could damage Illinois orchards and other crops.
"Seventy-degree weather belongs in April, not February," Angel said.
Some farmers are wondering whether the recent warm weather is a good thing, University of Illinois Extension Office director Aaron Dufelmeier said.
"Over the past couple of weeks, the almost summer-like weather has allowed farmers to put on anhydrous and do some early spring tillage," Dufelmeier said. "Unlike most years, the soil conditions are more favorable than the so-called typical year."
Auburn grain farmer Tim Seifert said his crops are four weeks ahead of schedule as corn planted on a half-acre test plot has begun to come up. He said farmers also have begun preparing for spring planting.
"If it stays this warm and this dry, we could see planting in the third or fourth week of March," Seifert said.
Jeff Flamm, co-owner of Flamm Orchards south of Carbondale, said his peach and apple trees are well ahead of schedule.
"We don't have any blooms yet," said Flamm. "We could still take temperatures below freezing, as long as it doesn't stay there too long."