Early spring nice, but not out of woods yet

Jim Suber: View from Rural Route 8

By A Contributor

Nearly everyone is ga-ga over the ultra-early spring and the escape from a real winter with its snow-plowing and ice-sliding and fuel gushing into home and office furnaces.

However, as an old hired man I used to know would say, we is not out of the woods jest yet. Any freeze now of any magnitude in hours or degrees below freezing, will be disastrous to gardeners and landscapers, not to mention a number of corn growers in the southern regions of the corn belt who have already planted corn.

As we all have seen, trees are leafing out, fruit trees have been blooming a week, grass is greening up, irises are already fanned into adult shape, daffodils are waning…need we say more? This has all happened by mid March! There is a full month to go before our average frost-free date in very late April.

Moreover, I recall many freezes deep into May in Kansas. One was so late in the Kaw Valley that corn was already knee high. Those who had cultivated lost more than those who had not, because the cultivated ground had released its moisture into the atmosphere, so the wetness that would have absorbed a lot of the coldness was not there to do that, and so the plants froze instead.

I recall the Mother’s Day weekend freeze across much of the state in 1981 that ruined about a third—maybe more—of the wheat crop, which was frozen in the forming heads. They turned out white and blank, and farmers then rolled it up into big round bales that had a white glaze to them from border to border and into Colorado. Many is the time in the first week of May that tomatoes have frozen nearly everywhere in Kansas.

On the other hand, maybe nothing will happen and we’ll have a growing season this year to rival those of the Mississippi Delta country. On television the other night, pundit/comedian Dennis Miller jabbed global warming guru Al Gore by saying Gore was the only person in America who was sad that the nation had enjoyed such a warm winter.

Meanwhile, I understand that not all farmers are able to secure the fertilizer packages they really wanted for this year. Plus, there is a shortage of certain corn hybrids in certain areas, it is reported. Those types of reports have grown more common in recent years.

Another type of reports is coming from a major war going on right here in the United States over nutrients. The fronts include but are not limited to the Chesapeake Bay and its six feeder states; the tributaries of the Gulf of Mexico; the Great Lakes; the State of Florida; and California’s central valley. Activists and environmentalists are fighting against what they see is contamination of ground and water by nutrients applied by farmers to the ground. The main two fertilizer nutrients involved are nitrogen and phosphorus.

It’s a huge legal and political war and it’s going to affect farmers and ranchers nearly everywhere before it’s over, if it ever does end. It will also affect fertilizer mines and plants. It will probably reduce food production and increase food prices and have little positive result for the environment.

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