Rain brings relief, issues to farms in region

a man stands in a corn field of flattened talks, holding one in his hand
David Mast stands in his corn field July 6, near Jamestown, Pennsylvania, that was flattened by an isolated thunderstorm that dumped an inch of rain on the field plus high winds. (submitted)

David Mast’s landlord called him on the morning of July 6 to tell him how nice his cornfield was looking. The corn plants were about 6 feet tall and had been growing rapidly.

By that evening, the 85-acre field near Jamestown, Pennsylvania, would be lying flat after an isolated thunderstorm blew through the area.

The field is about 2.5 miles from Mast’s house, also in Jamestown. When the storm hit, he was outside with his children putting up a swimming pool, but they barely noticed.

“It sprinkled a little bit at the house, and we had a little bit of wind, but it didn’t stop us,” he said.

Not long after, the landlord called him and said the whole field had been flattened.

“I could hardly believe that,” he said. “She said they had tremendous wind and got about an inch of rain in 15-20 minutes.”

Stormy summer

Storms like these are more typical of summer weather in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio than the dry spell that started the region’s growing season and pushed many areas into drought.

The region has seen more opportunities for rain in the last few weeks, said Geddy Davis, a meteorologist and atmospheric scientist at Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

Some areas of central and eastern Ohio were even taken out of drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the July 6 U.S. Drought Monitor update. About 62% of Ohio was abnormally dry or in drought as of July 6, an improvement over the previous week’s rating of 75%.

But overall, the region is still playing catch-up on precipitation, Davis said.

About 90% of Pennsylvania is abnormally dry or worse as of the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor update, with parts of York and Lancaster counties falling into severe drought. This is a slight improvement over the previous week, where 92% was abnormally dry or in drought.

“The problem is the consistently is still not there yet,” he said. “With pop-up thunderstorms, we’ve had areas that have seen inches of rain in an afternoon, and the next county over has been pretty dry still.”

Crop progress

The rain has been good for fields of corn, soybeans and hay in Ohio, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Crop Weather report, released July 10.

Last week, 62% of corn was rated as in good or excellent condition. This week, 67% of corn was rated as good or above. Soybeans rated as excellent improved from 6% to 9% this week, although the amount rated as in good condition dropped from 56% to 50% statewide. Pasture and range conditions improved as well.

Wheat harvest started around the Fourth of July around Ohio, with harvest progressing more slowly than in past years, in part due to the rain. About 32% of winter wheat was harvested, according to the USDA Ohio Crop Weather report, compared with 77% last year at this time and 63% as the five-year average. Wheat yields and conditions have been mixed, the report said.

In Pennsylvania, crop conditions worsened in most cases, according to the July 10 Crop Progress report. Corn rated as good or excellent dropped from 54% to 40% from the July 3 report to July 10. Soybeans rated as good or excellent dropped from 50% to 32%. Only hay conditions stayed about the same.

This change came as some areas were listed as having surplus moisture in the topsoil and subsoil for the first time since the beginning of May.

Mast, of Horizon Acres, in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, is hoping the cornfield will stand back up on its own. He’s seen it happen before as long as the stalks aren’t broken and roots aren’t pulled out. If it doesn’t recover in a couple of weeks, he’ll chop it for silage.

(Rachel Wagoner can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.)


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Rachel is Farm and Dairy's editor and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County, where she co-manages the family farm raising beef cattle and sheep with her husband and in-laws. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts. She can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.



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