WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Indiana farmers could be in for a
warm and wet early spring when they head into the fields to plant their crops,
the Indiana State Climate Office said. But they also could expect a return to
drought in some parts of the state during the growing season.
“It will be warmer and wetter to start the planting season,”
said Dev Niyogi, state climatologist, based at Purdue University. “This is
expected to turn to some drying in the growing season, leading to mild to
moderate drought conditions across Indiana.”
He said areas of the state particularly susceptible to
drought again are the southern, west and southwest counties.
But the question for now is how wet of an early spring
farmers can expect as they prepare to plant their corn and soybean crops.
The Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration forecasts a wetter-than-normal spring in the Great
Lakes region from Wisconsin south to Tennessee and east into Ohio, an area that
includes Indiana. Soil moisture has been improving in this region.
The CPC’s outlook for March through May in Indiana is for
precipitation about 2.5 inches above normal.
That is a state average, and precipitation would vary by
Last year during the same three months, Indiana’s
precipitation fell 4.19 inches short of normal, according to an analysis by the
climate office. Extremely dry conditions then set in, leading to widespread
drought that continued into the fall.
Indiana and most of the eastern Corn Belt states have had
enough precipitation in recent months to eliminate drought, although 13 of
Indiana’s extreme northern counties still have abnormally dry conditions,
according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.
Drought persists in the Great Plains states, some still
enduring exceptional drought, the monitor’s highest level of dryness.
Precipitation in the early spring in Indiana is more likely
to be in the form of rain than snow because temperatures from March through May
are expected to be about 2 degrees above normal, the climate office said. Rain
can be more efficient than snow in adding moisture to soil.
Last year for the same period, temperatures were 7.3 degrees
above normal, and there was little rain. Planting conditions were so favorable
that some farmers got into their fields in March to plant corn.
Planting of that crop typically begins in mid-April when
there is less chance of a destructive freeze. Soybeans usually follow a couple
of weeks later.
Lack of rain in the spring hindered development of corn and
soybean crops as drought conditions began to worsen.
In addition, fruit crops such as apples, peaches, grapes and
strawberries developed rapidly because of the unseasonably warm weather, and
garden plants bloomed early.