Lack of rain causing growing concerns for some local crops

We are in one of the longest dry stretches Toledo has weathered in nearly three decades.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - While some of you may be enjoying the dry weather, the lack of rain is a cause for concern when it comes to some local crops.

According to the 13abc First Alert Weather Team, we’re in one of the longest dry stretches our area has weathered in almost three decades. The last measurable rain was May 20th, and it’s not just the lack of rain, but also the heat and sun that are causing extra concern.

Agriculture is big business in Ohio and Michigan, and there are growing concerns in both states about the continuing lack of rain.

“The ten day forecast doesn’t look good, but we’re just going to stay positive and get through it,” said Jason Heerdegen, manager of the Ottawa Lake Coop and a second generation farmer. “This weekend looks warm but if we get some cooler temperatures, that absolutely will help and buy us some time and then we just need to get a measurable rain at some point.”

Heerdegen says the wheat crop could really use a measurable rain right now and while the lack of rain is not ideal for most crops, he adds that this is the best time for dry weather for certain crops.

“When it comes to corn and soybeans, if it had to be dry early in the season, we can handle it right now. Later in the season, it could be more difficult but if there had to be a time, this is ideal for those crops to be under some drought stress. They will root down and try to get into the moisture.”

While the surface of many fields are bone dry, there is moisture below the surface providing some help.

“We might not have had a lot of snow this year, but we did get some rain events, and the sub-soil moisture got recharged and the moisture will kind of wick up. You always think it dries from the top down, which it does, but it will kind of wick up from all of the sub-soil moisture and get us by.”

Heerdegen says just a few miles can make a real difference.

“The rains are so spotty, even a mile, half mile or quarter mile. There can be an inch or half inch variance, it’s just so scattered. We cover such a large area so we talk to our growers each morning, ‘what’d you get? what’d you get?’ We actually have a group text where everybody shares the rainfall they get and it varies quite a bit, it can vary by half an inch.”

But right now, Heerdegen says it is dry just about everywhere the Ottawa Lake Coop does work.

“Everybody is in the same boat, we’re all dried out and we’re all in a dry pattern right now. We are at the mercy of the weather in our occupation, but it usually works out for us. We’re just hoping for a change of events and come June and July it’ll turn wet when the crop really does need it.”

Many of the local vegetable and strawberry crops are irrigated, meaning water is added to the fields. Irrigation is also used by some grain farmers, but Heerdegen says it will likely be a week or so before farmers would start irrigating those crops.

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