Area trees, crops struggle as drought conditions continue

With less than 2 inches of rain over the last two months, area crops, lawns and trees are looking for moisture amid drought conditions in much of the Miami Valley.

Precipitation at the Dayton International Airport was nearly 7 inches more than a normal year through July, but after two straight months of drought conditions, the gap has nearly closed.

Most of Montgomery, Preble, Darke and Greene counties are abnormally dry. Miami, Shelby, Clark, Champaign counties and a portion of Butler County have moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Only 1.26 inches of rain in August and 0.15 inches in September have fallen at the Dayton International Airport. That’s a drop of 4.03 inches from a typical year, according to Storm Center 7 meteorologist Jesse Maag.

Some areas of the Miami Valley saw more rain Saturday than the airport, but it won’t be enough to help along many of the crops this late in the growing season as harvest begins.

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“At this point, a lot of the crops are too far along that even if we get some rain between now and the next month it’s not going to do much for the crops. They’re pretty much done to a major part of their growth and development stages,” said Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Ty Higgins. “And unfortunately, what we’re going to have is a less than ideal crop year in 2019.”

A majority of the soybeans and corn across Ohio are in the very poor to fair categories following the dry conditions. Only 32 percent rank good quality and 2 to 3 percent are excellent, according to the most recent USDA Ohio progress report. The quality concerns pair with a drop in yields along with an expected 710,000 fewer acres of planted corn and 810,000 fewer acres of planted soybeans.

“The beans will be smaller. The top of the beanstalk usually gets a few more beans late, and they’ll probably be like bb’s,” said Dean Thompson, a Darke County farmer. “They didn’t get enough moisture to fill out….My last beans that I planted, probably (rain) would help, but most of the other is beyond any rain help.”

Some of the early soybeans in Clark County were yielding as low as 30 bushels per acre, said farmer Bob Suver. In Darke County, they were close to 50, Thompson said. Neither Thompson or Suver have started harvesting yet, but said their soybeans can often yield as high as 60 to 70 bushels per acre.

Both are expecting significant yield reductions this year.

Greene County farmer Craig Corry also said he expects yield reductions, which always come when planting as late as many area farmers were forced to this year. But even with the late planting, crops were on track to get the right number of good growing days until drought conditions struck and moisture ran out in August, he said.

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“It’s stressful. You start out with too much water and then a drought and trade on top of it,” Suver said. “It’s about time something goes our way.”

The drought conditions are also impacting home plants and lawns. While September is typically a hot, dry month landowners with young trees need to be especially watchful in the escalated dryness, said Maryanne Cordial, a supervisor in the nursery of the Berns Landscaping in Beavercreek.

“Commonly what we’re seeing is a lot of people coming in with fungus issues and disease issues right now because they aren’t watering. They assume because their trees are mature, they don’t have to do anything to them and a lot of times that’s causing problems,” Cordial said.

Trees can be planted any time of year as long the ground is soft enough to dig a hole, but especially at this time of year it’s important to make sure to water the plants without overdoing it. Landowners should stick their hand between the container the tree is planted in and the hole dug around it to see if the soil is moist. If it isn’t, the tree isn’t getting enough water, Cordial said.

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Being mindful of soil is also important, she said. Too much water in clay-type soil could cause root rot.

Cordial recommended anyone planting or with freshly-planted trees add a root stimulator while watering to make sure the roots take solid hold before winter.

“They need to amend their soil. We’re always going to be in hard-packed clay here. If you amend the soil that means you’re just putting something soft for those roots to take a hold to. If you’re putting clay right back on top that tree’s going to have a hard time,” Cordial said.

If consumers are wanting to plant trees this year, Cordial said to wait until later in the year when conditions aren’t so dry and it takes less care for a tree to grow properly.

Lawns are also starting to brown, she said. But that’s not a concern. The dry weather isn’t killing the lawn just allowing it to go dormant, which happens every year about this time, she said.

“It looks dead, but it is still alive. It’s just not going to look good until spring unfortunately,” she said.


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