Fire danger remains high today & will so tomorrow, as well. Strong winds, combined with very dry air will give any small fire the ability to spread rapidly to brush, crop fields & woodlands to structures.
Overall, our topsoils are dry right now, but subsoils moist. I have heard many people say that this is bad & we desperately need rainfall. This dry weather is not necessarily bad this time of year & we haven’t reached desperation level yet. I welcome dry weather in March & April (not devoid of rainfall, but not a lot of rain………no rainfall at all for a month will have real complications). Here are the reasons:
1. Nothing is worse for newly-planted corn than wet & cold soil. Germination & stand development is very inconsistent & the low spots often fail to germinate.
2. Dry soil heats up much better than wet soil. Even on a cool day like today, the strong March sun will heat the dry soil for newly-planted corn.
3. Germinating corn roots have to reach deeper for water, which makes then more resistant to summer dry, hot spells. Nothing is worse than a wet, wet spring with bad corn stands & germination with shallow rooting, followed by a hot, dry summer. The corn falls over in storms & yields are drastically reduced, as the stress of shallow rooting in dry soil sets in.
4. It is dry enough that soils are working up well for planting, prevent any worry of compaction or rock-hard clods to plant in when you work it a little moist in spring. Sometimes, in wet springs, you just have to go out & work it up just to air it out & let the cold dry, then get a rain on them with dry days to melt them & then you have to work it again to plant. This costs a lot of money to growers.
5. Grass roots on lawns have to grow deeper to get water, making the sod more resistant to dry, hot spells in summer. It is better to have the dryness & get the roots deep than to have shallow rooting & then get dry & hot mid-summer.
6. When you have heavy rains after field work, soil runs off & all your herbicide, insecticide, fungicide & fertilizer application can run off into streams & rivers. With no run-off, this isn’t an issue & germinating plants can soak it right up.
7. Crops that are planted earlier can handle heavy May & June rains. Young plants are notorious for not having the ability to handle flooding, but advanced crops can. So, not only do you have better drought-resistance (like we mentioned above) we have better flood resistance.
8. Crops planted earlier in this dry weather have a longer time to dry & cure in the field when you get that hot, dry weather in August.
9. Heavy rains atop newly-planted crops can create a nearly impenetrable soil crust, which hampers germination in a crop. This is especially common on clay soils.
10. With the kind of wind we have had this winter & spring, if you get a lot of rain on these planted & worked-up fields, that soil crust will form & the wind will cause considerable blowing soil. Bad wind erosion & dust storms in our area have been caused by this soil crust that forms after working/planting.
11. Drier weather makes plants more resistant to frost & freezing. When you deplete the plant cells of water a bit, they are less plump & there is less likelihood that the cell wall will burst, thus ensuring foliage wilt & death. Cells
12. Dry soils can prevent heavy frost development on cold, clear nights.
13. Plants buffeted by dry winds, gradually colder weather & lack of rainfall, are much more resistant to any cold snaps, then getting ample rainfall & warmth with less wind & a rapid cool-down.
14. On another note, recedence of lakes, bogs, rivers & streams has meant a BOOM in food for migrating & resident bird species of our area. At Celery Bog, in West Lafayette, the receding water of the bog has opened up mollusk & insect-rich mudflats to birds. I have never seen such a variety of marsh & shorebirds (many migrating northward that I have never seen before) in one area. All of the birds are fattening up on their long migration journey, ensuring higher likelihood of survival. From plover to sandpipers to yellowlegs, this has been a boom for birds there.
15. Mosquito breeding is less due to less standing water.
Overall, it is better to be dry now when it is not so hot, so all of our plants will become more resistant to what Mother Nature throws at them over the next few months. Granted, we will need some rain to get the crops up & keep the grass green. If the summer does end up overall dry, like I am thinking, we will need nice resistance to set in now.
SHORT-TERM DROUGHT IN THE AREA…….
The northern half of the viewing area is in a moderate short-term drought, while the rest of the area is abnormally dry in the short-term. Severe to extreme short-term drought exists just to our west in Illinois, where stream & river flows & levels are record-low for early April.
Longer-term, we actually have a surplus of water after a wet late fall & early winter with river flooding. Since February, it has been drier, however, with little, if any, run-off. This is leading to very low river, stream & lake levels & drier than normal top soils.
Lack of rainfall, combined with record warmth & evaporation with the very windy conditions over the winter & spring has led to the short-term moderate drought to abnormal dryness.
SHORT-TERM DEFICITS & LONG-TERM SURPLUSES……..
Below, you can see that we are running a surplus of rainfall since October 14, but a deficit since late winter & an especial deficit since March 12.