WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Drought has crept back into part of
Indiana, reflecting weeks of dry conditions following a wet winter and spring
that eliminated the remnants of the devastating drought of 2012.
The U.S. Drought Monitor on Sept. 5 showed that four
counties in northwest Indiana — Benton, Newton, Warren and Lake — now are in
Until this week, nearly half of the state was abnormally dry
— the lowest level of dryness — a condition that continues in most of the
central counties and some northern counties.
“We were expecting moderate drought to be introduced into
the state this week,” said Ken Scheeringa, associate climatologist with the
Indiana State Climate office, based at Purdue University. “Rainfall has been
scarce in most counties for a few weeks now. Drought conditions in Illinois were
worsening and on the move eastward and have now reached Indiana.”
State Climatologist Dev Niyogi said the central portion of
the state could move into moderate drought next week if that area does not get
enough rain and continues to lose water. He said his office will continue to
monitor the situation closely.
No rain was in the forecast for the remainder of this week,
but chances for rain next week were expected to be near normal, according to the
climate office. Near-normal temperatures also were forecast for that week, with
above-normal temperatures the following week.
Crops have been in dire need of meaningful rainfall for
weeks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 80 percent of Indiana’s
corn crop was in good to excellent condition in mid-July, but that has fallen to
66 percent for the week ending Aug. 31. For soybeans, 74 percent was rated good
to excellent in mid-July, compared with 62 percent now.
As September approached, rain was needed within days to
prevent the crops from deteriorating further. Some of that rain arrived over the
Labor Day weekend, with portions of southern Indiana receiving 2 to more than 4
The heaviest rains came Sept. 1, mostly in the extreme
southwest and southeast. The central and northern parts of the state were not as
fortunate, although some areas received more than an inch of rain.
Purdue Extension soybean specialist Shaun Casteel said the
rain helped, but how much depends on the amount of rain plants received relative
to their stage of development and the drought stress they were under.
A half-inch might not have been enough for some stressed
plants to avoid dropping their pods. More rain likely would have prevented that
and helped them to fill out the seeds.
Drought last year that began in May shriveled crops during
the summer, resulting in low yields at harvest, and led to bans of fireworks,
campfires and watering of lawns. It lasted until February after frequent
precipitation in the winter recharged soils with adequate moisture.
In the spring, rain continued to the point where the ground
was so saturated that farmers were delayed in planting crops.
Then, in what has become a topsy-turvy year of weather, the
summer turned cool but dry, leaving the state below normal in rainfall.