Spring is here, at least by the calendar, and farmers are trying to get fields ready for spring planting

But rain, sleet and even snow and below average temperatures are making it difficult for farmers to get into the fields and get the ground ready.

Even when farmers can work the fields, the temperature has dropped and prevented the ground from getting warm enough to germinate seeds.

This combination has put farmers behind and is making them itch to get into the fields, said Pratt County Extension Agent Mark Ploger.

"We're getting behind," Ploger said. "These weather delays have pushed things back for farmers anxious to get into their fields."

Temperatures were expected to get below freezing again Tuesday night and that is several days past the average last freeze day of April 15.

The latest Ploger can remember a freeze was on a May 12 years ago. If that were to happen this year it would be very costly to the crops.

Farmers are glad to have the moisture during winter and into spring but the colder temperatures are keeping the ground from getting up to and staying in the 50s necessary for plants to germinate, Ploger said.

"The soil temperature is so low, plants probably wouldn't germinate. It's slowing everything down," Ploger said.

When the ground dries out farmers can get back into the fields. But if temperatures don't cooperate and get above 50 degrees and stay there, it will push planting back even further.

If farmers were able to start planting and the temperature were to drop below freezing again it would cause significant damage to the crops.

It's not only the spring crops that are being affected. Pastures in the area have not developed as rapidly as anticipated. One farmer in western Kansas was going to put his cattle back in the pasture but upon further examination discovered the grass had not developed as he had anticipated and had to keep feeding his cattle until the land warmed up enough to get the grass growing, Ploger said.

More urgent to the farmers is the impact a late freeze will have on the wheat crop. It's still too soon to tell what damage, if any, the wheat crop suffered from the recent ice storm.

The ice can act like insulation and protect the crop from cold weather damage. Orange growers will turn on their sprinklers and cover their crops with water. It will freeze in cold weather and insulate their crop.

In order to gauge the condition of the wheat, the ground needs to warm up and get the wheat growing. When that happens, it will reveal the extent of the damage from the ice storm. It usually takes three to four good warm growing days before damage will show and it just hasn't gotten that warm in the Pratt area.

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