Lack of rain in forecast could be concern for Michiana farmers, gardeners

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 7:42 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - Residents of Michiana have been enjoying this gorgeous weather, but it could become a concern for farmers and gardeners.

With the amount of rain we’ve had this spring, there is still a good level of moisture in the soil. But that, like the plants, will be short-lived without more rainfall in the forecast.

Currently, farmers are looking forward to finishing planting and seeding this week.

They tell us the crops require little precipitation to sprout from seed as there is plenty of moisture in the soil, making this a perfect time to cut the first hay crop.

“You know, as the crop root out looking for moisture, if it stays incredibly dry as it has been, that top layer of soil is going to start drying out a little more, and the plants are going to struggle to find the moisture they need to keep going strong, because every year, you want to grow the best crop possible, and if that crop has to shut down at an early stage, to wait for better-growing conditions, then that just puts the crop behind a little bit,” says Chris Matthys, supervisor of the St. Joseph County Soil and Water District. “So, certainly would like to see some rain in the next three weeks, but we’ve dealt with dry spells before.”

Plants grown from seed require much less water than already sprouted plants as they are further in the growth cycle.

Farmers have also incorporated cover crops and no-till practices to preserve moisture to help plants get through dry spells like we are currently facing.

Farmers say there isn’t a need for concern, but that could change if rain scarcity lasts more than a couple of weeks.

“This early in the growing season, not really,” Matthys said. “The crops need very little water at this growing stage. A lot of guys would prefer to finish planting this week. A lot of guys are mowing hay and would love some nice, dry weather to get that first cutting of hay off. Some wheat could use some rain a little bit, but overall, we’re corn and soybeans in this area, and the crops are going be just fine for the next seven days, 14 days even, given the current situation.”

Matthys tells us that “wise farmers always say mother nature has the last word,” so here’s to hoping for rain for the farmers and gardeners.

Local gardening experts say it’s an excellent time to reach for the watering pale, as new plants require a little more attention to flourish.

Vite Greenhouses tell us that when planting annuals, the root ball is very short and can’t reach the water table yet, so they must be watered regularly to thrive.

If the plant starts withering, that is a good indication that it needs water.

Vite Greenhouses also tell 16 News that with the warm, dry weather, the wind is a big concern for already sprouted plants, as it rapidly dries the topsoil.

“Just be careful of the dry conditions with wind for new plants,” says Jerome Vite, co-owner of Vite Greenhouses. “You’re putting new plants in the ground. Whether it be a shrub or a little annual, you want to make sure that it gets established. And usually, as the summer progresses, even though we get warmer temperatures, once the plant is established, it does a whole lot better, but this is a critical time of the time and season to get the plant growing properly.”

Their phone number is (269) 695-2959.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is released every Thursday, so farmers can better understand if the state is nearing a drought situation.

Purdue University also has a drought monitor for the state of Indiana.

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