Weather key to Ky. agriculture

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Coming out of the wettest combined April and May on record, Kentucky agriculture producers are dealing with a multitude of problems including flooding and increased disease, according to Tom Priddy, UK Extension meteorologist.

Data from Jan. 1 to May 31 reveals Kentucky’s wettest year on record with an average 31.38 inches of rainfall statewide. That figure surpasses the previous record of 31.18 inches set in 1950.

Here, at the Trimble County Extension Office, I recorded almost 24 inches of rainfall for April and May and over 18 inches of rainfall in Milton.

“Record flooding occurred along the Ohio River. The station at New Madrid and Cairo recorded the highest crest in history, while Paducah recorded its second-highest crest. Flooding was not just held to river basins; fields were saturated from early April through late May all across the state. Most of the fields in Trimble County were beginning to look a lot like soup! I don’t believe I can ever remember the Ohio River staying above flood stage for such an extended period of time.

The abundant rainfall significantly held up corn planting across the state and increased disease in winter wheat left standing in floodwaters. About the only positive was the above-normal low temperatures that kept a late freeze at bay, helping the state’s horticultural producers.

Priddy believes recent hot and dry conditions over much of the state may be short term. We expect overall rainfall to be around normal for June; however, temperatures should stay above normal. The rest of the summer should bring near-normal rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures. The current drop in temperature is a welcome relief.

Tropical storms are already starting to develop in the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s a strong start to hurricane season, which officially began June 1. For the six-month hurricane season the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 12 to 18 named storms of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes.

What does that mean for Kentucky? Well, we remember recent years when remnants of several tropical storms have moved up the Mississippi River and stalled over the Bluegrass state providing significant rainfall.

The NOAA predications are based on La Niña continuing to decrease to a neutral state in the south Pacific. It’ll be a completely different weather pattern if El Niño should return as some of the models suggest.

Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.