Long winter creates positives and negatives for 2014 farming season

With an anticipated late spring, asparagus is expected to hold off by about one week, and should be ready to harvest in mid May.

It's no secret that the winter weather has been extreme this year. But with warmer temperatures on the way, farmers are getting ready for their busy seasons.

Agriculture leaders say the large amounts of snow and record breaking low temperatures have impacted many different kinds of crops in both positive and negative ways.

Executive Director of Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, John Bakker, says that in previous years asparagus farmers have worried that their crop would come too early and be damaged by the spring frost. He says that might not be the case this year.

With an anticipated late spring, asparagus is expected to hold off by about one week, and should be ready to harvest in mid May. The typical timeline for harvesting asparagus is around May 10. Farmers say it could happen anywhere between May17-24 this year.

Honor farmer, Harry Norconk says the delayed harvest could be a good thing because current supply coming in from Mexico has caused fresh asparagus prices to fall. Norconk says by the time their crop is ready, prices will hopefully rise in order to meet the high demand.

"The negative side of that is we can miss Mother's Day which is a big weekend for the restaurants which we sell to and then also our Empire Asparagus Festival comes on the 17th this year," said Norconk. "We didn't have asparagus last year, and I'd hate to miss it again this year."

MSU Extension Specialist, Nikki Rothwell says the heavy snow has benefited the apple and cherry trees by creating a blanket of insulation. She says snow also creates good moisture levels in the soil. One negative impact centers around the high snow line because animals like rabbits and mice have started to damage some of the trees.

Rothwell says a lot of fruit crops can be damaged by temperatures lower than negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and that grapes are among them. She says certain kinds of wine grape buds were damaged this year by the extreme cold.

"We've actually cut some buds here at the research station so some of our varieties that we grow really well like our rieslings and our chardonnays, they look pretty good," said Rothwell. "But some of our other varieties may be a little more susceptible to these cold temperatures. But I think that everyone should remember before they get really worried that we wont have any Michigan wine is that you only need 15-percent buds and you can still get a full crop. And then the other thing that is awesome about wine grapes is they have a secondary bud so if that primary gets killed off that secondary can produce a bud and we can still get fruit from that."

Corn crops on the other hand are a little less certain. MSU Extension Field Crops Senior Educator, Dan Rossman, says the timeline for when farmers will be able to start planting this year, depends on the weeks ahead. He says as of right now the ground is still frozen but that the gradual snow melt this year has eliminated major runoffs so far.

"In 2012 we had a very extreme early spring and we had planting starting in early April in some cases but that was a very unusual time and of course last year we were delayed because of a heavy rain and many people didn't get started until late May or even the end of June," said Rossman. "So every year is a different story and the story for this year is just beginning to unfold for the 20-14 growing season."