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EXPERT AVAILABLE: MU Meteorologist Cautions Gardeners and Farmers Against Early Planting Despite Warm Weather

March 21st, 2012

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

By Brad Fischer

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Warm temperatures and sunshine have come to the Midwest earlier than usual this spring. A University of Missouri expert predicts a continued warm trend, but he cautions farmers and gardeners against early planting.

“With warm temperatures and trees blossoming, it’s tempting to plant now,” said Tony Lupo, professor and chair of the Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Natural Resources. “I don’t predict a cold snap, but I recommend that gardeners wait until mid-April when the potential for a freeze has passed.”

The warm weather causes fruit trees, commercial crops and budding plants to emerge early. In 2007, similar weather conditions brought warm weather to the Midwest. However, a shift in the climate pattern brought cold Arctic air to the area. After days of extreme cold, farmers incurred millions of dollars in crop loss from ruined crops of fruits, hay and corn.

Lupo said there is a block of arctic air in Alaska right now, but not as much as there was in 2007. He said the next few weeks will be critical as he and his colleagues track weather patterns.

“Even though I don’t predict a cold snap, it is not out of the realm of possibility,” Lupo said. “If gardeners do plant early, they should keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared to cover plants to protect them from frost, if necessary.”

Lupo received his doctorate from Purdue in 1995 and is currently the principal investigator at the Global Climate Change Group. The Global Climate Change Group investigates how global climate change may impact long-term weather patterns and the growing season in the Midwest. He has written 34 papers on factors that influence large-scale weather patterns. Lupo is also a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in October 2007.