This statement from the latest National Drought Monitor says it best...
"Corn conditions rated poor or very poor increased from last week to: 10, 15, 8, 5, 7, and 8 percent in IL, IN, IA, MI, OH, and WI, respectively, while similar conditions for soybeans were at 12, 16, 10, 8, 10, and 9 percent. 23 and 21 percent of Indiana and Illinois pastures were rated poor or very poor. Unfortunately, this region needs timely rains and seasonable temperatures very soon in order to ensure that emerging corn and soybean develop properly and halt further declines in their condition."
With a summer-like heat ridge building into America's breadbasket for the next week, corn and soybean crops will be thrust to the brink of failing by this time next week. Basically, farmers will have to consider a second planting by next weekend IF RAINS DO NOT MATERIALIZE.
Drought Fears Increase, Farmers Need Rain
The theme for the week/month and perhaps the summer is the growing risk of an agricultural drought. Defined as a critical lack of rain water during the growing months of May thru September, clearly there is ample time to get rain for crops.
But since dryness begets more dryness and droughts tend to spread from state to state quickly, I wanted to share with you the concern from farmers in America’s breadbasket.
Here’s the most telling statement I read this morning as I looked at the US Drought Monitor.
“Extension agents in Iowa and Missouri reported curling corn leaves, stunted or no root growth, and soybean emergence problems, with some cracks in the soil. Stream flows have declined rapidly during the past few weeks. According to the Iowa State Climatologist, rapid deterioration of the crops is likely in the next few weeks if substantial rain does not arrive as crop moisture needs greatly increase over the period and subsoil moisture is mostly out of reach of young plants at this stage of development.”
Basically, Great Plains farmers are preparing for the worst (full fledged drought) and hoping for the best (periodic showers to see them safely through the growing season).
In order to see how that statement applies to our region I have consulted local farmers and extension agents. Lyndal Harned, Boyd County extension agent was busy in the Franks Activities Building at the fairgrounds in Coalton when I called. “The growing drought conditions are much worse in western Kentucky than here in the East, but we need rain soon. Already some field corn is curling a bit, not yet shriveling, but that may only be a week away if we don’t get rain.”
Lyndal went on to add, “our first hay cut was lean on quality and a bit short on yield. The early May rains hampered field work. Now cattle farmers have their pastures browning and they are feeding hay to their cows when the cattle should be grazing on new grass."
Meanwhile coming on the heels of the very wet 2011 (wettest on record in Ohio Valley), the ground water supply is fine. That means wells are not likely to dry up. So a ground water drought is not in the cards. Still streamflows have slowed and yes sand bars are showing up on rivers like the Mud. So water is needed for more than agricultural interests.
Pleasure boaters on our rivers will find waters clear and clean, but lower than normal this weekend. So some extra caution will be needed to navigate around new submerged structures like sunken trees which are normally covered by water.
The Ohio will be filled with boats at Harris Park on Saturday evening for Picnic with the Pops as will the levy in Charleston for Smoke on the Water and Festivall activties. Look for gorgeous sunsets through the weekend thanks to the dry Father's day weekend spell.
In the longer term, our supercomputers hint at some rain near the end of June. Still, with the ground as dry as it is, one has to wonder if the best we will do this summer is muddle through the hot,dry spells with an ocassional downpour supporting a crop this season.
Only time will tell if we fall into full-fledged drought conditions on the farm or if we are saved by the bell from longer term dryness.