As the drought of 2012 continues to intensify statewide, Ohio State University Extension experts have developed two Web sites dedicated to helping farmers, producers and consumers find ways to deal with the dry conditions and extreme heat.
Already, all of Ohio except for small portions of four southeastern counties near the West Virginia border is experiencing moderate drought, with areas in the western and northwest regions of the state near the Indiana and Michigan borders experiencing severe drought as of July 17, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor.
Conditions for growers are extreme right now, the worst they've been in more than 50 years, says Harold Watters, an Ohio State University Extension agronomy field specialist and coordinator of the university's Agronomic Crops Team.
With projected yields for corn and soybeans statewide now at 65 to 80% of normal, it now comes down to making business decisions for many growers on how to get through this year, he says.
“The OSU Extension agriculture management team will start addressing how to make business decisions on how to survive a year with less income and get prepared for next year where we have higher hopes for better crops,” Watters says. “Our hopes that were high for this year have really fallen off with this continued dry weather. There's only so much you can do without water.”
As a result, OSU Extension professionals have created two Web sites to offer expertise to help farmers, growers, producers, consumers and businesses manage the drought, whether they farm, manage a nursery or simply want to keep their garden growing, says Don Breece Extension's assistant director for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
For drought resources on the OSU Extension site, visit http://agnr.osu.edu/managing-drought-2012. Those who want to access social media to learn and talk about drought can do so at OSU Extension's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OHdrought12.
The drought in Ohio will likely be an ongoing issue in the weeks to come, according to Jim Noel with the National Weather Service. Noel, whose weather updates are featured in the OSU Agronomics Crop Team's weekly C.O.R.N. Newsletter, says rain totals for the second half of July will range from 0.50 to 1.50 in. on average. The normal rainfall amount is about 2 in., he says.
With drought conditions forecast to continue at least through August, unless the state gets a significant amount of rain soon, it could be winter before soil moisture levels return to where they would be considered normal, says Jeff Rogers, state climatologist and a professor in Ohio State's Department of Geography.
“Precipitation amounts have been running 50 to 70% of normal statewide for the last two months," Rogers says. “According to the current calculations, it would take 7 to 11 in. of rain to get us out of drought completely, which is hard to do because the summer conditions cause evaporation so quickly.
“But complete recovery of soil moisture will take 7 to 11 in., something that will likely take through winter to accomplish.”
Topsoil moisture was rated 63% very short, 31% short and 6% adequate, with no surplus, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Weekly Crop Report.
Statewide as of July 16, 47% of Ohio's corn crop, 57% of its hay crop, 65% of its pastures, 48% of its peaches and 42% of its soybean crop were rated in poor or very poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The reason the area is experiencing current drought conditions has to do with the typical summer high-pressure system that sits over the central United States, Rogers says.
This year it is much stronger than usual, which is preventing moisture from getting into the region.
“The long-term forecast for the next month or two calls for the expectation of higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-normal precipitation,” Rogers says. “The current forecast expectation is for the drought to continue and potentially get worse.”