By Ethan Merrill
Holt Journal staff writer
After one of the most persistent winters that anybody can recall, farmers in the Holt area are not curtailing expectations for their summer crops just yet.The middle of April typically marks the time of year for farmers to begin planting corn in Michigan. However, the unusually cold weather of the past few months is delaying those plans.
“Some crops are definitely going to be harvested later than the past few years,” said Farm Bureau agent Dennis Greenman. “Corn and soybean harvests are going to be late if the ground doesn’t warm up soon. ”
Another person familiar with the farming scene agreed.
“For seeds to germinate, the soil temperature must be 50 degrees Fahrenheit, at least one inch deep,” said Jake Wamhoff, a retired Michigan State University agriculture professor.
“I’ll be worried if we’re not there after April 25.”
Wamhoff says corn crops in Michigan are typically planted around April 15. He admits that planting will be late, but remains confident about nature’s ability to compensate.
“Mother Nature is an amazing thing,” said Wamhoff. “I’ve spent a lot of years fretting—and nature always works out.”
One reason Wamhoff has faith in this year’s crop is because of the improvement in seed quality. Genetic research has allowed scientists to create a seed that is much more resistant to cold weather.
“Fifty years ago, the seeds would have disintegrated during a frost,” said Wamhoff. “Now, we have a more hardy seed that can survive some of those conditions.”
He also talked about the common mistake of planting tomatoes too early.
“It’s not safe to plant tomatoes before May 15, because it’s very likely to frost again.”
Greenman also noted nature’s “tremendous ability to survive,” while pointing out that there is still a chance to reverse this past winter’s effects.
“A warm summer could speed up the process,” said Greenman. “Adequate moisture could also help late crops.”
Another sector of the farming community, the beef industry, has already seen its struggles documented in the media. Beef prices are rising as a cold winter transitions into a spring drought.
Livestock farmers are coping with a miserable first quarter. Cattle are more likely to have problems in pregnancy during freezing temperatures. Farmers must also increase their animal feed intake, adding to expenses.
“It’s been a brutal winter, no doubt,” said Karen Olmsted, co-owner of Olmsted Piedmontese Beef.
There is no doubt that many in the farming community still hold concerns about how the abnormally long winter will affect the local economy.
“As of now, we’re going to see reduced yields – and reduced quality,” said Greenman. “That could have a big impact on the the agriculture economy.”
Wamhoff is also reserving a spot for curtailed expectations – but is hopeful that nature will persevere.
“More cold weather will hold us back,” said Greenman.
“But you just have to be optimistic. We can’t warm up the fields.”