DROUGHT: Far from over in Whitley County

COLUMBIA CITY — Although continuous rain has provided favorable weather conditions for late July, the end to the drought is far from over. “The only way we are going to see an end to the drought would be if we have a continuation of the rain on a regular basis,” said David Addison, Purdue Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development. “The rain we have seen has brought the grass back, but it’s still low.”Whitley County is currently in an extreme drought, and Southern Indiana is in an exceptional drought, with an average of 15 inches of rain below normal.“We’re still down about seven inches right now,” said Addison. “We’ll need that and more to end the drought.”Phil Walker, Northeast-Purdue Agricultural Center (NEPAC) farm manager, said the rain has recharged some of the soil, but that is only going a short distance.“The crop grows mainly using the topsoil, which is the top foot or so,” said Walker. “Around here, the topsoil has somewhat been recharged, but if you go down below that, it’s still very dry.”According to Walker, some of the roots of plants reach below the topsoil, preventing them from receiving the amount of water necessary for proper growth. “That might be part of the reason why corn is not doing well, and soybeans have a better chance,” said Walker. “Also, there is a difference in how the plants grow since corn starts its reproduction phase earlier.”Addison said hay should also come back a little better with the rain.“If we don’t continue to get rain, that can deteriorate quickly,” said Addison.According to Addison, while the change in the seasons is likely to bring some relief for next year’s crop if the snowfall is normal, it is uncertain what the future holds.“Last winter we had very little snow, and we went into the season below normal,” said Addison. “It’s hard to predict how much snow we will get this winter.”Whitley County, along with 35 other counties, were designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by the drought.