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Dry conditions challenge farmers

August 10, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER

As I write this article, we are in the midst of some of the driest weather I can remember. Our wheat crop was very good, but then the wheels started to come off. Our rainfall since June has been pitiful and our corn, soybeans and other crops are showing the wear.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has Washington County listed as D2 Drought - Severe. Not really a revelation for many. Yet, I cannot help get frustrated when I hear a weather forecast and the voice says the weekend is going to get better because it will be cooler.

While I am all in favor of cooler temperatures, for the weekend to get better that would mean two days solid of rain.

The combination of hot weather and no precipitation has made this summer one of the toughest. We got off to a great start with the melting snow of the winter and the spring showers. Our corn in June looked outstanding. Then the sky shut down.

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I know I don't have to tell you how hot it has been, but looking back can help to put this in perspective. July's average temperature was 80 degrees. The only other year the average July temperature was that high was 1999. After that, 1985 and 1993 are the next closest with the average temperature of 78.5 degrees. The entire first decade of this century had an average July temperature of 74.9 degrees and July of 2009 averaged 73.8 degrees.

While heat and humidity are distasteful to humans and most animals, our crops don't mind. As a matter of fact, corn originally came from Central America so heat and humidity are OK. No rain is not OK. And that is the kicker; high heat and low precipitation are proving to be a near deadly combination.

I have resorted to what many might call desperation. I look longingly at Tropical Storm Colin. It does not look as if the storm will track close enough to give us any much-needed rain. Do not get me wrong, I am not looking for anyone to suffer destruction in order for us to get rain, but we have had droughts broken in the past by the tail end of tropical storms tracking over us and raining for several days and that my friends is what I am looking for - an extended rain event.

For all intents and purposes, our crops are finished, but we are soon to put our next crops in the ground and for that we need rain. After our corn silage is harvested, the fields will be covered with manure and prepared for fall planting. Before planting can commence, soil moisture is needed.

Our lack of rain has made all our crops short in supply so a lot of cereal grains such as oats, wheat, barley, rye and triticale will be planted to stretch our forage resources for both this fall and next spring.

While my tenor may be a little downtrodden, those of us in agriculture are external optimists. The rains will come and this dusty time will fade into a bad memory. Until next time, pray for rain.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu">jsemler@umd.edu

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