Not so pretty. That's how you describe 6 inches of snow on the ground in Iowa on May 2 and 3, 2013. Snow is pretty when it clings to trees in winter. But when it's clinging to everything the first couple days of May -- not pretty. It's not winter. And you know you need to be planting corn. Not shoveling snow.
It was strange. First time for school cancellations in May due to snow. I called a farmer in northern Iowa at Forest City where they had a foot of snow on the ground and he told me it was the worst driving conditions they had all winter. "But on May 2 it's no longer winter," he noted.
Instant ice. In Des Moines the snow was sopping wet, a slushy mess with a daytime high temperature of only 35 degrees F May 3. Car tires running over 6 inches of slush on freezing streets create ice, quickly. A friend told me his mother celebrated her 90th birthday May 3, 2013. First time in 90 years that it snowed on her birthday.
So what's going to happen to corn that was already in the ground (and was covered with snow)?
On Tuesday, April 30, a couple days before the weather turned cold, snowy and wet, Chip Mathis of Elkhart, a longtime friend of ours at Wallaces Farmer, sent me an email with a photo attached. The photo showed a tractor pulling a planter in Chip's field. Chip's message said: "Mushroom Popcorn is in the ground and not in the bag! Got our 12 acres of Iowa State Mushroom Popcorn planted April 30, 2013."
What Chip was referring to was the recommendation by many agronomists that "your seed will be better off in the bag" than in the ground if it gets as cold and wet as the forecast says it will for the next four or five days. The agronomists were looking toward the weather forecast for the week of April 29-May 5.
They gave that cautious answer to a question many farmers were asking the last few days of April; "Should I go ahead and plant corn? I know the ground is still a little wet and soil temperature is just barely 50 degrees, but it's almost May 1 and there are many of us who don't have any corn planted yet. Should I go ahead and plant today even if a snowstorm and cold weather are coming in a day or two and are forecast to last for several days, maybe longer?"