Cold weather holding up area farmers

By WEEK Producer

March 22, 2013 Updated Mar 22, 2013 at 9:40 PM CDT

MORTON, Ill. -- John Ackerman was gathering eggs from the chicken coop on his Morton farm on Thursday morning.

Its about all he can do. His fields are too soft for heavy equipment and the ground hog's prediction of an early spring was way off.

"If the weather was fitting and the soil was dry enough we'd be starting to do some of our spring tillage at this point," explained Ackerman. "But right now its still too wet, its very cold and it hasn't dried out much."

Of course, the weather can turn on a dime. But lately the daily high temperature has been roughly what our average low should be.

If the unseasonably chilly spring continues for a few more weeks it could cost farmers more than time.

"If it gets to be about mid-April and I still haven't gotten out in the field then its time to get a little worried," said Ackerman. "There's a yield reduction in corn where if you get to May you'll start to see a subtle yield reduction every day into May. And as you get into mid-May then there's a serious corn yield reduction."

But the manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau says its not time to panic yet.

"Actually I think we may have gotten spoiled from last year's warm weather that came in March," said Patrick Kirchhofer. "We had 6 out of 8 days in mid-March that reached 80 degrees. Obviously we're not going to reach that this year but this is probably more typical of March."

Kirchhofer says the mercury wouldn't need much of a bump to get most farmers going. Just some sunny days to dry wet fields and about 10 more degrees.

"The soil temperature needs to be at least 50 degrees for a corn kernel to germinate. And preferably we'd like to see it in that 55 to 65 degree range," Kirchhofer said.

For now all farmers can do is wait.