Have We Seen The Last Snow of the Season?

Hoosier Perspectives

Park the snow blade and get the planter ready!

Published on: April 1, 2013

Farmers who planted corn on March 26 last year looked out their office windows this year and saw three to 10 inches of snow on the ground in many parts of Indiana. That didn't stop them from working on their corn planter in the shop that day, because they know it wouldn't be around long. Indeed, by the weekend Frosty has melted away until next year. We hope.

"Do you think we've seen our last snow this year?" one caller asked me late last week. I gave the normal answer. "I hope so."

And we probably have, at least last accumulating snow. I think it's time to focus on spring and continue to get ready to plant.

What this record-setting snow did however, by coming so late, was serve as a stark contrast to last year. It put the full season accumulation above normal for Indianapolis, just under 30 inches, although the official ag climatologist amount for December 1 through March 1 was slightly below normal. If someone was building a case for global warming based on 2012, this spring has thrown a wrench into the argument. Whereas last March was so far above normal on daily temperature that it set a record that may never be broken, this March will likely wind up considerably below normal.

It also reminded everyone that Indiana weather has a mind of its own. It will snow one day, and be 50 degrees by the weekend. Sitting in the middle of the Midwest, if storm fronts come this direction, anything is possible.

The winter we've just put to bed was a sharp contrast to the previous winter, in more ways than just the March thermometer and snow total readings. It will likely push a record of most freezes and thaws, with temperatures constantly going above and then below normal. That may have been hard on alfalfa, especially on wet soils, causing heaving, but it may have been hard on certain insects too, like bean leaf beetles.

People who wanted a winter that would put the brakes on insects may have got their wish – not because it was so hard, but because it was so unpredictable. John Obermeyer, a Purdue University entomologist, says insects get confused and don't know whether to rev up the engines and start developing or not. After a few stops and starts, it takes a toll on their ability to rev it up once conditions finally are right.

Last but not least, if anyone was thinking about making any decision based on last season, March should have knocked that notion in the head. The start to two seasons couldn't be more different. What worked last year – planting corn in mid-May instead of mid-April, and planting soybeans in mid-May with full-season varieties, may or may not work this year. Last year was one for the record books, not one to pull out and make decisions by.

Who knows, this year may belong in the record books too. If it snows more than a couple inches even one more time, it may be time to toss this year aside for decision-making too.

What the heck? Park the snow blade and hope you don't need it until next year. But keep working on that corn planter!