Odd winter weather no threat to farming yet
OSCEOLA COUNTY — By any accounting, the 2011-12 winter season has been … odd.
Certainly so far, things have not gone quite according to the usual script.
It’s been unseasonably warm when it should be pretty dang cold.
There is less of a collective snowpack that folks in this area have seen in quite a few years.
Nevertheless, it’s nothing over which to be too concerned … yet.
“It’s still not time to raise any panic flags,” reported Osceola County Michigan State University Extension Service educator Jerry Lindquist.
“A lot of concern is being voiced over what is perceived as a lack of moisture and whether this will carry over and affect the coming growing season.
“Farmers are starting to get nervous.
“But I think it is still too early to tell what will be in the spring and summer.”
Lindquist noted the old farmer’s saying, “The best time to have a drought is in the winter.”
He noted a lack of snow cover did not necessarily mean a significant lack of in-ground soil moisture as the year moved ahead.
“We can still get significant snowfalls in March,” Lindquist pointed out. “And we certainly can get serious rains in late February, March, and April.
“We often get rains in April and May that turn fields into mud bogs. We can catch up on soil moisture pretty quickly.”
Lindquist did note there was a “legitimate concern” over perennial crop injury because of ice cover in many field as a result of thawing snow and freezing night air.
“The icing we’re seeing could well smother some crops,” he explained.
“The ice cover actually can choke off oxygen supplies to a perennial crop. That could be a real problem — but that too is a stretch at this point.”
In short, while the weather may be strange, it isn’t necessarily a problem for agriculture in this area.
It is, however, a problem for those who make a good portion of their living off winter recreation in this part of the state.
“There actually is a lot of work getting done on farms this winter season that usually is put off until clearer, warmer weather,” said Lindquist.
“Calving and lambing is a lot more comfortable this year than it has been in years past.
“People who depend on snowmobile or ski revenues for a living are very, very worried.
“Businesses that cater to winter recreation lovers are getting hit pretty hard financially.
“This is not turning out to be a good year for them.”