June 4, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Kentucky’s unusual weather pattern this spring is putting the state’s agricultural producers through the wringer. 

“With nearly 13 inches of rainfall in April and May combined, many late spring field operations have been put on hold,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky agricultural meteorologist. “The two-month period goes down in the record book as the fifth wettest in 108 years.”

Priddy coordinates the UK Ag Weather Center and has fielded calls from concerned farmers in the Commonwealth about the record-setting wet period.

“I’ve talked to farmers who say they are going to have to replant everything in their fields,” he said. “I had one farmer tell me he didn’t think it would be worth it to replant at all; he’s just going to wait till next year to try again. Unfortunately, there’s more rain in the forecast so they aren’t going to get a good break in the near future.”

Some of the Commonwealth’s grape growers particularly have been hit hard by the weather.

“We’re seeing some serious disease problems in many vineyards,” said John Strang, UK Extension fruit and vegetable specialist. “A lot of that is due to the excessive rainfall we’ve had following a late April frost. “

Strang said the grape industry has welcomed many new growers in the recent past and many of them many didn’t initiate their spraying program when the vines began to produce green shoots. He said there were nine black rot infection periods in the Lexington area between April 17 and May 28.

“The unfortunate thing is there’s nothing they can do to rectify the damage that’s already been done,” he said. “The plants have lost some photosynthetic capability many have fruit disease infections.”

Strang said the best thing growers can do is maintain a good spraying schedule for the rest of the season and start earlier next season before disease conditions have a chance to set in.

According to data from the UK Ag Weather Center, May 2003 was the eighth wettest and the 53rd coolest May.

“The first half of May we saw very mild temperatures with several days in the 80s,” Priddy said. “But the second half of the month we saw much cooler temperatures nearly 10 to 15 degrees below normal.”

He said the unusually high frequency of rainfall events provided numerous and extended periods of very high humidity, leaf wetness and disease potential for crops.

Priddy said another interesting fact is that Kentucky had 13 tornadoes in May 2003. The National Weather Service reports that Kentucky normally averages about 10 per year.

“Not only did these tornadoes cause fatalities and property damage,” Priddy said, “but they also caused a lot of crop damage in the fields.”


Tom Priddy  859-257-3000, ext. 245