April 3, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

As spring arrives, farmers are counting the days until heading for the fields for another planting season. The recent rains will help ensure those crops will have enough soil moisture to get off to a good start.

Rains have saturated the soils, and filled creeks and rivers. Flooding and flash flooding occurred across many sections of the state with Doppler radar rainfall estimates of up to 8 inches in the Bluegrass area.

But only a few weeks earlier the state was moving in the opposite direction.

Until recent rains came, the state had seen about six weeks of below normal rainfall that had sent the eastern section of Kentucky back into a slight hydrologic drought, said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist. Today, all parts of the state are considered moist based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index with only western Kentucky listed as very moist.

"We needed rain," Priddy said, "but perhaps not quite as much as we received last week and again this week."

Other parts of the country have seen suffering through dry conditions all winter with the Carolinas through New Jersey dealing with serious drought issues.

Once the saturated fields dry, farmers will begin moving their equipment into the field to plant corn.

Good moisture levels will help grain crops get off to a good start without suffering the stress that lack of moisture can cause. Moisture levels have improved over last year, said James Herbek, UK Extension grains specialist.

In the next few weeks farmers, especially those in southern Kentucky, will begin moving their equipment into the field to plant corn. UK recommends that farmers use soil temperatures as a guide to determine when to begin planting. A minimum of 50 degrees at the 1½ to 2-inch depth with an upward trend is recommended, Herbek said.

Later this year, Kentucky's weather may be impacted by El Nino. El Nino is the warming of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that often results in cloudy, wet, cool conditions in the southeast including Kentucky, Priddy said.

To date, some weather models have El Nino showing up. If it should rear its head it could impact the state this fall, he said. It is the big weather issue looming on the horizon, Priddy noted.

To assist residents with weather issues facing the state, the UK Agricultural Weather Center maintains a web site with current weather conditions, as well as forecasts and other weather-related items. You will find it at http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu/.


Tom Priddy, (859) 257-3000; James Herbek, (270) 365-7541