CHARLOTTESVILLE—Cold temperatures and regularly occurring snowstorms this winter have even hardy folks like Virginia farmers eager for spring to arrive.
The good news is Virginia’s groundwater supplies have been mostly replenished, said Jerry Stenger, director of the Virginia Climatology Office. Winter precipitation is vital across the state, because once the growing season begins, vegetation and high temperatures quickly start to deplete water supplies.
“Since October, the majority of Virginians have received normal to well above normal precipitation,” Stenger said. “Areas along the North Carolina border, much of Southwest Virginia and the central Shenandoah Valley have been notably drier, with some locations receiving less than 75 percent of normal. Nonetheless, the lower-than-normal temperatures across the commonwealth have kept evaporation rates down to reduce moisture loss.
“The net result is that the available precipitation, including the recent snowfall event, has kept monitored stream flows and groundwater levels in the normal range and above across the state,” Stenger said. “The only exception is one stream flow gauge in the central Shenandoah Valley. There is still a month or more of cooler temperatures left before the growing season gets fully under way. This will be a period when additional precipitation will have a good chance to contribute to the longer-term reserves.”
The Virginia office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service reports winter small grain crops like wheat finished the month of January in mostly fair to good condition.
“The small grain crop is growing very slowly,” reported David Moore, an Extension agent in Middlesex County. “Top-dressing of fields (needing fertilizer) is delayed due to frozen ground. Also, lime applications on fields that need it over the fall and winter months have been delayed.”
Scott Reiter, an Extension agent in Prince George County, said “limited” field work was accomplished in January due to cold, wet or snowy conditions. “Small grain producers have struggled to get herbicides and nitrogen applied” in a timely manner, he said in the NASS report.
Contact Stenger at 434-924-0548 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.