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First, frozen ground kept heavy winter snow from melting into the ground and keeping the soil moist. Now, the rain is coming down too fast to absorb.
The Illinois Valley got a good soaking on Sunday, but the rain fell too hard and fast to keep our farmers happy. While the area is not in a drought, spring 2014 hasn’t been as wet as you might think.
Bill Gray of Hope Township found that out when he excavated some soil to do tile repairs. Usually this time of year, his tiles are running heavily and any hole he digs quickly fills.
Not this year. The tiles are running one-third to one-half the normal springtime volumes and the hole he dug for tile repairs did not fill. It might be the driest spring he can remember.
“I think the subsoil is average to below-average,” said Monty Whipple, president of the La Salle County Farm Bureau. “It’s amazing with all the snow and early rain we had that we didn’t have more absorb.”
That’s not welcome news for farmers who reported middling to poor subsoil moisture, one of the holdovers from the 2012 drought.
The National Weather Service reported just under 6 inches of precipitation since March 1, which is 17 percent below normal.
Nevertheless, the total is about half the 11.3 inches reported over the same period in 2013 — and last year’s total provided a different kind of headache.
“It’s a lot better than last year, when it was so darn wet,” said Gary Ford, a Tonica farmer who credits no-till farming practices with helping seal in water over the winter.
The Tonica farmer was out doing maintenance on his corn planter Monday morning at the Ashley Farm in Hope Township after the weekend’s rain postponed field work.
The weekly forecast won’t do much to cheer the farmers — or anybody else, for that matter.
The National Weather Service predicts a cool front coming mid-week that will break the unseasonable heat that baked us over the weekend — temperatures will plummet into the upper 50s by Wednesday — and usher in some rain.
“It’s not looking to be a washout or all-day rain, but rather intermittent showers,” said Ed Fenelon, a meteorologist with NWS in Romeoville. “And it’ll be pretty cool considering our normal high is 69 degrees and our normal low is about 47.”