MINNEAPOLIS — Home gardeners, farmers and consumers may have noticed what used to be easy to grow in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin may not be doing so well anymore.
That's reflected in the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2023 plant hardiness zone map. Compared to 2012, there has been a significant change for much of Minnesota.
The map used by gardeners and growers indicates which plants are likely to thrive where you live. For years, the Twin Cities and surrounding areas were classified as zone 4. Flash forward to 2023, and that data now shows our area has grown into zone 5A. Based on our average extreme temperatures, that means Minnesota's winters are warming.
But what does this mean for you? According to Julie Weisenhorn, an extension educator of horticulture at the University of Minnesota, this hardiness change opens the possibilities for metro gardeners.
"So I think actually gardeners in Minnesota will be pretty excited about zone 5A and the plant palettes that that opens up for them. One of my favorite plants that I saw in Chicago at the Morton Arboretum is an Oakleaf hydrangea. It's a big beautiful shrub with these oak leaf type leaves and beautiful conical flowers. But it's a zone 5 plant, so ... that would be something that somebody could consider growing," said Weisenhorn.
WCCO's Director of Meteorology and NEXT Weather Meteorologist Mike Augustyniak said these changes are happening faster in Northern areas like ours.
"Most of what's happening in the northern tier of states across Canada, and across Alaska, is due to the melting of glaciers and ice, sea ice across the north polar regions, and that's allowing warmer winters overall," said Augustyniak.
The impact is enormous on the state's $21 billion farm economy. Soybeans have now eclipsed corn, wheat and alfalfa as Minnesota's number one cash crop.
"We used to just grow in the southern part of Minnesota, then we moved up to the central. Now we are all the way up to Canada," said Bob Worth, the president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.
New hybrids are also helping with the rise in extreme weather events. Crop insurance costs are skyrocketing and that's being passed along to consumers.
Dave Nicolai, an extension educator in field crops at the UMN, says we're at the mercy of a fluid climate.
"Whether we're dry, or whether we're cold, or are too much rainfall or too little. We seem to have more storms and those types of situations. So that's costing farmers more money."
Talking Points airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., live on CBS News Minnesota.
NOTE: Above is a preview of Talking Points presented on "The 4."
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