Many farmers across Indiana have been weighing whether to take advantage of this spring's warm weather and plant their crops earlier than usual.
Doing so, however, would put them at risk of falling victim to below-freezing temperatures that are considered still possible until at least later this month despite the record-breaking warmth the state has seen for the past month.
"It's never been this nice this early," Tipton County farmer Bob Tebbe told the Kokomo Tribune. "It's never been so fit to plant this early here, either."
Howard County Purdue Extension educator Paul Marcellino said some farmers already had fields planted by March 20 — a not unprecedented date, but still quite rare.
"It's just hard for some people to turn down these warm, dry conditions," he said.
But many farmers have done just that, preferring to wait until the middle of April — the time most consider the sweet spot for producing the best yields — to diminish the risks associated with early planting.
Although new seed hybrids withstand cold temperatures better than previous seed varieties, Marcellino said it's still a real threat this early in the spring.
"Nothing is immune to a killing frost," he said.
Despite the risks, Bryan Kirkpatrick said he started planting at the end of March at his farms in eastern Howard County and Grant County because the conditions are just too good to pass up.
"I'd rather have fields planted earlier rather than later," Kirkpatrick said. "You've got to take advantage of the weather that's given to you."
Some crop insurance plans won't cover damage to corn planted before April 6 or soybeans before April 21.
Kent Chism, a farmer in northwestern Howard County, said he expected to start planting this week, which is still much earlier than he would normally start.
He hopes his decision will lessen the chances of a failed crop without insurance to cover a replant.
"The calendar says wait, but everything in nature says it's time to get started," Chism said.