Lack of rain disrupting growth of crops for local farmers

Although a drought warning as not been officially issued in Blair County or Central Pennsylvania, the affects of the constant dry weather have disrupted the growth of crops for local farmers.
A drought is a period of abnormally dry weather which persists long enough to produce a serious hydrologic imbalance (for example crop damage, water supply shortage, etc.). The severity of the drought depends upon the degree of moisture deficiency, the duration, and to a lesser extent, the size of the affected area.
Droughts have trickling effects that are categorized in four different ways: meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socioeconomic.
For farmers, the agricultural drought is usually the first to be affected because of its heavy dependence on stored soil water. Soil water can be rapidly depleted during extended dry periods, such as we have had in our area.
Agricultural drought occurs when there is insufficient soil moisture to meet the needs of a particular crop at a particular time. A deficit of rainfall over cropped areas during critical periods of the growth cycle can result in destroyed or underdeveloped crops with greatly depleted yields.
One such Tyrone farmer, Bill Hoover, has noticed the affects of the dry weather on his main crops, corn and soy bean.
“I haven’t started harvesting yet, but I know the yield has decreased 50 percent,” said Hoover. “It’s very obvious how severe the drought is. All you have to do is drive by a farm and the corn looks like pineapple plants.”
Hoover continued, “At the beginning of planting season we had an excess of moisture so roots couldn’t be planted deep to get water, but now there is no rain and things dried up – the plants weren’t deep in the subsoil, which results in corn and beans drying up.”
With everything drying up because of the lack of rain in our area, Hoover said that the harvest will have to be done earlier so the crops don’t die. He added, “A lot of corn will be chopped two or three weeks early for forage because of the dry weather.”
An extended period of dry weather beginning in the spring of 2001 prompted the issuance of a drought watch across most of Central Pennsylvania. Continuing dry conditions into the winter of 2001-02 prompted the watches to be upgraded to warning status, and eventually emergency conditions in portions of Eastern and Southern Pennsylvania.
Average to above average rainfall during the spring of 2002 over Central Pennsylvania helped to ease the drought conditions, and the areas affected by the drought were reduced. Recurring dry conditions during mid to late summer 2002 have once again prompted drought warnings, but were never officially announced for Blair County.
Greg Devoir, meteorologist for the National Weather Service-State College, commented on the absence of drought warnings in Central Pennsylvania. “It’s more severe as you go Southeast in Juniata and Snyder Counties, and even more serious towards Lancaster.”
Devoir added, “If we don’t get rain in the next few weeks, drought warnings will be issued in our area.”
Farmers in our area don’t need a drought warning to notice the affects on their crops. For the last 30 days, precipitation totals across Central Pennsylvania have ranged between one and nearly four inches. This rainfall was below the normal range for all of Central Pennsylvania.
Hoover stated with concern, “A lot of yield is lost already, no matter if there is significant rain everyday.” With crop yields failing and continued dry weather, a drought could become more of a serious matter in our area.
The next drought information statement will be issued by the National Weather Service in State College on or about August 14, 2002, or if a change in drought status occurs.