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‘March Madness’ for local farmers

Posted on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 9:08 am

National Agriculture Week has come and gone, and yet Mother Nature had not been too kind to local farmers during the month of March.
Abnormally cold and wet conditions  prevented several producers in the Lancaster and Northumberland areas from planting their crops when they normally would.
“Last year was the optimal season. It got warm fairly early. Guys were able to plant corn March 15, March 20,” said Landre Toulson, the Cooperative Extension agent for Lancaster and Northumberland. “Here we are right now, April 2. I don’t know of anybody who has started planting corn yet, so we’re already three weeks behind on planting corn.”
Toulson said the ground temperature has been too low for the proper chemical reactions to take place for the crops to grow.
“Typically you don’t want to plant until the ground temperature reaches about 55 Degrees [Fahrenheit],” said Toulson, who noted that the temperature for the month of March in 2014 averaged 42 Degrees Fahrenheit compared to 60 Degrees for March 2013.
“You could plant certain vegetables … but as soon as they start to grow [with] all this rain and cold temperatures, they’ll usually rot in the ground or won’t even germinate,” he said.
Toulson added that, while precipitation for last month was below average —the counties received 2.9 inches of rainfall in March, 2014 compared to 5.3 inches in March, 2013 —the rainwater that was received had stuck around due to the low temperatures, making the ground too wet for crops to grow properly.
“I would say this was one of the coldest, wettest Marches that have been seen in quite a number of years,” said Toulson.
While growing vegetables consists of different methods from grain farming, Toulson said vegetable producers were close to being a month behind in planting their crops.
“It’s going to put the added pressure to go ahead and get stuff into the ground,” said Toulson. “You just hope that the weather stays warm and things dry up a little bit because there are so many factors that are involved.”