Lower temperatures and scattered rain during the past few weeks have begun to ease the drought in some parts of Ohio, according to a national report.
However, some experts and farmers say the drought is getting worse in Ohio, not better.
“This is the driest month this year,” Ohio State University Extension agronomist Harold Watters said. “The grass is green because of the cooler temperatures, not because we have more water.”
The extreme heat that has affected the Midwest for much of the summer has shifted west, fueling wildfires in Idaho and northern California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In southwestern Ohio, a tiny portion improved to severe drought, better than the extreme conditions last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Areas of the state in moderate drought fell 1.37 percentage points this week, according to the monitor.
The monitor “adequately represents most parts of the country, but not Ohio,” contends state climatologist Jeffrey Rogers.
Rogers is using data from the more established Palmer Drought Index to prepare a report for Ohio’s Drought Assessment Committee.
The Palmer index, which is based on rainfall and estimates of soil moisture evaporation, takes a long-term view of drought,
This index shows three of Ohio’s 10 climate regions in extreme drought — from Cuyahoga County along Lake Erie, south to Coshocton County, and then to Pennsylvania.
The seven other regions, which include central Ohio, are in severe drought, according to the Palmer index.
“I don’t think there’s reason for optimism,” Rogers said.
According to a different Palmer index, east central Ohio, which includes Stark, Tuscarawas and Columbiana counties, needs up to a foot of rain to end its drought.
The rest of Ohio needs up to 9 inches of rain.
Neall Weber, who farms more than 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and hay in Hilliard, said rain in April came at the wrong time for his corn.
“When the corn was going through the pollination stage right around the Fourth of July, it was 104 degrees, and we hadn’t seen rain in a couple or three weeks,” Weber said. “That really hurt it.”
Although some rain could help his soybean crop a little, lack of rain has cut his hay yield by half this year.
Hay prices will double, he predicted, which, along with rising grain prices, will make it hard for livestock farmers to feed their cattle, hogs and chickens.
“Hay grows very much like grass does in your yard,” Weber said. “Those weeks when our lawn mowers were parked in our garages, our hay wasn’t growing either.”