President’s Note: The Challenging Climate

challenging climate

We are finally moving into spring here at the Kerr Center. It has been an interesting winter season, with our challenging Oklahoma climate on full display.

I was at a talk on beekeeping last week and the speaker mentioned Oklahoma had several “false springs” this year.

I had never heard it described that way, but we had several warming spells followed by hard cold snaps.

This is really hard on honeybees. They try to forage when it warms up, but don’t find any flowers, so they burn up energy reserves and honey to survive. Hive owners needed to feed their bees more often this year than in other years.

Late spring freezes are nothing new to vegetable growers, but even knowing it can happen, we get lulled into complacency when the temperature stays warm for several weeks and we think spring freezes are over.

The last frost-free date here is considered April 15th, but after weeks of warm weather we had temperatures hit 33 degrees the night of April 16th, and had some cold damage on tomatoes in our open coldframe. The Kerr Center office sits higher than the horticulture farm. Some tomatoes in tubs outside the office did not seem to have any freeze damage. This shows how, at close to freezing temperatures, low-lying areas can have frost while other areas do not experience freezing conditions.

Two days from now, the extended forecast shows temperatures dropping down to 34 degrees. A week ago, the extended forecast did not show temperatures dropping this low. Over the last several years, we seem to be experiencing warm conditions in March and April followed by sudden freezes after April 15th. So maybe the frost-free date has moved to later in April?  At least we are reminded how fickle nature can be this time of the year.

These are both examples of how the changing climate continues to challenge and frustrate growers.

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