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Lingering winter backs up field work

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Red Wing, 55066
Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

ELLSWORTH -- Old Man Winter's extended grip on this region should be more of a talking point than a significant concern for farmers, according to Pierce County soil conservationist Jon Krauss.

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Friday, Krauss discounted the notion farmers could have a bad crop harvest this year due to the unusually late spring. The weather's influence on crop production will depend on what happens later, he said.

Like most people, the soil conservationist found the long overlap of last season onto this one makes for interesting discussions.

He particularly mentioned the tree program being as late as is expected this spring for notability. The trees are supposed to come in this May 20, as compared to the last part of April or early May, which is often the case.

"Of course, the nurseries have to dig up those trees," he said, reminding that it is difficult under last week's ground conditions.

Snow cover and a long-range forecast for more snowfall, along with temperatures not much higher than the 40s, are frustrating to many, but not totally unique for mid-April, Krauss said. He remembered while growing up on the family farm near Ellsworth which he still operates today a late-spring year when his father, George, didn't do any planting until June 6.

Spring of a year ago, early because of conditions just the opposite (80-degree weather in March, for example), causes the present situation to seem worse than it is for some, the conservationist said.

"I'd planted oats by April 4 or 5 last year and corn by May 1," he said, not knowing how soon he'll get his 30 acres of corn, 30 acres of oats and the rest hay in this year.

On the positive side, Krauss regards this spring's lasting snow as somewhat of a blessing. He said the area badly needs moisture after being on the verge of drought in 2012, so hopes it will soak in as it melts. Reports he's getting from farmers vary widely about whether the frost is out of the ground yet or not.

"I've heard of an ice sheet on the hay in some places," he said.

He said he has also heard praise over the recent snowfalls from this area's maple syrup producers. Something about the barometric pressure falling when those storms occur has promoted the sap to begin running, they've told him. But before the latest snow happened, the producers weren't necessarily optimistic, he said.

In general, farmers are always anxious to begin their spring work and this year's seasonal setback helps intensify such feelings, he said. He foresees a strain on fertilizer dealers, as once the below-normal weather breaks, demand for their products could hit all at once.

If there's a difference between this year and other late-spring ones in the past, Krauss said usually there's a day or two of warmth; this time, the thermometer has struggled to exceed 50 degrees even once.

Farmers will respond to what Mother Nature deals to them and come out fine, he believes.

"Once they get going, they can sock a lot of corn into the ground in short order," he said.

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