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Paynesville Press - April 16, 2003

Deep frost not expected to delay spring planting

By Jennifer E. Johnson

Spring planting for area farmers should be unaffected despite a snow drought. Lower than average precipitation this winter led to the deepest frost levels - from 36 to 42 inches - since 1990, according to Bob Weisman, a meteorology professor at St. Cloud State University.

Tractor in field - photo by Jennifer E. Johnson Without the insulating cover of snow, the ground froze harder and deeper.

Small grains - which are planted in shallow soil should not be affected by the frost, but corn and soybeans - which are planted deeper - will need to wait until the frost is out, said Dave Schwartz, a Meeker County Extension officer.

Though a snow drought this winter created deep frost levels, subsoil moisture is high and spring planting may even be early. Area farmers have taken advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures to plant small grains and prepare the soil for corn and soybean crops.

While corn and soybean crops normally don't get into full swing until May, according to Schwartz, farmers might still get ahead of schedule as the frost dissipates. With subsoil moisture at near capacity, he explained, roots will travel further in search of water, creating stronger root systems.

Randy Hemmesch, who farms near Lake Henry, said he's hoping for a good thunderstorm to draw the frost up and out before planting. For the time being, he said ground conditions are good for preparing the soil. Hemmesch said he expects to be planting corn within the next week or two.

Dallas Fenske, who farms in Roseville Township, said that his soil has really warmed up in the past couple of days with all the direct sun. "If you'd have told me a few months ago that we'd be planting in April," he said, "I wouldn't have believed it." Fenske, said he will plant his crops like usual, taking it day by day until the soil is ready.

Weisman cautions that the dry surface soil raises the potential for grass fires until the frost melts or significant precipitation falls. Because of these conditions, the Department of Natural Resources has issued burn restrictions across the state, including local counties. (See burn ban story).

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