Farmers anxiously awaiting spring rain forecasts might want to take several deep breaths and keep their rubber boots ready.
Above-average spring rainfall is expected in March, April, and May—which is exactly what happened last year.
However, recent forecasts call for warmer-than-average temperatures in March. If that happens, that could dry up some of the ground moisture, making it manageable for farmers to get into their fields to prep them for planting.
How much rain will this spring bring?
“It’s impossible to say,” said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist for The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Time will tell whether the rain levels will rival last year’s, when farmers across the state struggled to get into their saturated fields. An unprecedented number of fields across Ohio could never be planted.
When farmers were able to get into their fields, they risked their tractors and other equipment getting mired in the mud and compacting the soil, making it less suitable for seed growth.
“I do anticipate there will be challenges for some farmers similar to what they faced last year,” Wilson said.
Since it is uncertain how many rainy days spring will bring or which months will have the heaviest downpours, it is hard to predict how much of a challenge the rain will be for farmers this year.
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If this spring’s rain falls mostly in May, as it did last year, planting efforts could be hampered significantly, as they were last year. But if April is wet and May offers a reprieve with warm and mostly dry days, planting will likely be a success, Wilson said.
Above-average rainfall is expected to continue into at least early summer, outlooks for Ohio suggest.
But there is a bit of good news. Across southern Ohio, the ground is not nearly as wet as it was last winter. This winter has brought less rain than the winter of 2019, and this past fall was much drier than the previous fall for southern Ohio.
However, northwest Ohio has had no such break. The region never dried out last fall and it has been as wet this year as last. An extended period of warm temperatures and dry weather are sorely needed before the planting season begins.
2019 was the sixth wettest year on record in Ohio and also was the 12th warmest—part of an ongoing trend toward wetter and warmer years. Six out of Ohio’s top 10 wettest years have occurred since 2003.
“Ultimately we need to be prepared for these types of scenarios and not think of them as, ‘They’re never going to happen again in my lifetime,’” Wilson said.