Wet and Mild Winter

Wet and Mild Winter

There’s been minimal need for rock salt and snow shovels this winter in Ohio. With temperatures hovering in the 40s — and even rocketing to 70 degrees in Columbus this month — the season is one of the most mild and wet in recent memory.

While most Ohioans cheer not having to scrape ice off their cars or shovel snow-covered sidewalks, it’s a different story for the state’s farmers, who could experience a variety of weather-related challenges.

For example, according to The Ohio State University Extension, perennial fruit crops survive cold winter temperatures by experiencing a hardening-off process in the fall that leads to dormancy. A period of cold temperatures, called the “chilling requirement,” is necessary for proper fruit-bud development and a productive bloom during the growing season. The chilling requirement is different for each fruit species and variants within the species. It remains to be seen how this winter’s milder temps will impact the state’s fruit crops.

“It’s too soon to tell if there will be an affect or not on apples and peaches,” said Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association in a recent Bucyrus Telegraph article. “It looks like the weather is expected to get back to ‘normal’ and if that happens, that’s a good thing. There’s no damage yet and the critical time is yet to come.”

The state’s wheat farmers are also being challenged by Mother Nature. There’s concern that 25 percent of the wheat crop might be damaged because of standing water in fields.

“Farmers make repairs via tillage,” said Steve Prochaska from the OSU Extension in the same Telegraph article. “They’ve not been able to do that. It is a major topic this winter as to what they are going to do this spring and to till mud is not an option.”

The situation is also causing concern among Ohio’s maple-syrup producers, who rely on above-freezing temps during the day and freezing temps at night to optimize sap production.

“Last year, we had perfect weather and a perfect season,” said Doug Fitch, a maple-syrup producer in Milton Township, in the Ashland Times-Gazette. “We could get bigger runs earlier if it gets cold, but we’re not getting those clear, frosty nights.”

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