Weathering the Weather

Husker Home Place

I just can't resist talking weather at corn planting time.

Published on: May 14, 2013

I’m not sure whether I should talk weather or not today, but since most farmers can talk weather with the best of them, I’ll go ahead. This Spring has been crazy. Everyone agrees. Last Spring was just as crazy, but in the other direction. If you average the two extremes together, you get “normal.”

For the Great Plains, this is situation normal. On Sunday morning, we awoke to about 28 degrees and heavy frost on the pickup windshield. Today, forecasters are predicting 95 degrees. Back to so-called “normal” by mid-week.

Planters in our country have been inundated with dust, rain, sleet, snow and hail over the past two weeks. When we talk climate change around here, we’re talking about a single day. Of course, this is nothing new. The old timers used to write about the crazy weather of the past with humor.

PLANTING TIME: Corn planting time can produce some crazy weather.
PLANTING TIME: Corn planting time can produce some crazy weather.

A Nebraska wind gauge is a log chain attached to the house. If the chain rattles, there is a light breeze. If the chain sticks straight out, there is a heavy breeze. If the chain is gone, then it is windy.

Several farmers can recall the Spring of 1947, when the area experienced around four or five inches of wet snow the END OF MAY which almost covered emerging corn plants. A veteran producer told me that the snow nipped the corn severely and killed it in some places, but much of the crop survived the cold snap and snow and produced well.

My Dad was born on July 31, 1927. He was told by his father that the corn froze on the morning he and his twin brother were born. Both my Dad and uncle were born at home in the farmhouse, as was the custom in those days. When the doctor drove out to the farm from town the next morning to check on Grandma, he wore his heavy buffalo coat to keep warm.

Knowing these stories helps us overcome some of the anxiety we might feel from a later than normal planting season. Of course, we need to cover more acres in a shorter period than in the old days, but our machinery is pretty efficient and ground can be covered in a relatively short amount of time.

I haven’t heard a single farmer complain about recent rains. We all remember how easy planting season went last year, but how tough the growing season was. Maybe this year’s difficult planting season will lead us to a much more favorable crop.

Here is this week’s discussion question. What was your latest planting date on corn ever? Let us know about your experiences and how that crop turned out.

Check out Nebraska Farmer online for the latest news on the growing and grazing season. You can read my Small Farm, Big Vision column in Dakota Farmer magazine, or follow Husker Home Place on Twitter. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my new “Field Editor’s Report” featuring the positive stories about the families who raise our food. Pass it on!