Agricultural interests and residents concerned about water resources in much of the Midwest got their wish for snow cover this winter season. However, the snow and lingering winter conditions will lead to planting delays.
As of the start of the week of March 25, nearly 50 percent of the nation was blanketed by snow.
In portions of the Midwest, the snow cover was more than a few inches deep. In northern areas, the snow depth is a couple of feet.
Even though milder air will visit the Midwest in the coming days causing the snow to melt, the remaining snow cover will limit the warming over the region.
Snowcover reflects sunlight. While it does insulate the ground and sprouting vegetation from severe cold air, it also tends to keep the ground cold and wet during the first part of the spring.
Planting can be delayed by up to a few weeks in some areas due to the cold, wet ground, or in some cases even from existing snow on the ground.
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According to Agricultural Weather Expert Jason Nicholls, "Corn is usually planted around late March in portions of Missouri and Kentucky and advances northward over the Midwest into April and May."
However, soil temperatures have a way to go before reaching the critical mark of 50 degrees in these areas.
While no-till farming is common practice on large tracts of land these days, tilling the fields in cases such as this may help accelerate the warming of the soil, if done during a spell of warm, sunny weather. Farmers considering this practice will have to weigh the extra costs involved and the potential for early spring freezes.
"Another concern that was practically non-existent last spring, but may exist for some agricultural tracts this spring, is the risk of flooding," Nicholls added.
The melting snow will release its moisture either gradually with the aid of the sun or quickly during drenching rainstorms. The latter could be an issue for part of the corn belt and other areas farther east into the spring, away from the High Plains, which are already experiencing building drought conditions.
Planting interests from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic and mid-South may trouble finding many days like this over the next couple of weeks with additional waves of cold air and freezing temperatures likely.
Since the waves of cold air are not yet dismissed, neither can the possibility of freak, late-season snowstorms in the region. Fortunately, these tend to become much more rare and affect a small area moving forward into April.