Dry spring is a factor in crop planting progress


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WOOSTER, Ohio — It’s not just cold weather the seed must tolerate. Throughout most of April, there’s also been a lack of rain.

The National Weather Service shows just 1.19 inches of rain fell in Cleveland through the first 30 days of April, more than two inches below normal. In Youngstown and Erie, Pa., just under 1.5 inches fell, almost two inches below normal in both cities.

“Many fields do not have good uniformity of soil moisture at planting depth,” according to a University of Illinois news release. “Using tillage to improve soil moisture uniformity often does not work well when moisture is in short supply. Planting into uneven moisture can result in uneven emergence and plant size, which can reduce yield.”

The university says that for soybeans, if there is enough water to start the germination process, but not enough water to get plants to emerge, seeds and seedlings often die. Therefore, if soils have limited moisture, it may be better to wait until after rainfall to plant.

Corn seed needs less water than soybean to germinate, and corn usually emerges better than soybean, so planting corn a little deeper and into drier soils is less risky.

As of the last full week of April, Fred Pond, of Pond Seed Co., said some places in northwest Ohio had only received four-tenths of an inch of rain. But while April was dry, he said it’s quite possible May could be the opposite.

“Mother Nature has a way of correcting those things,” he said. “(I’m) just a little bit unsure if May may be that correction.”

Penn State agronomy professor Greg Roth said frost has damaged some of the barley and cool-season grasses in Pennsylvania. He’s concerned the cold and dryness may lead to a shorter first-cutting hay crop in some areas.

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