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Dry weather continues from fall into winter

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By Ike Parrish

Reporter

With no substantial rain in the forecast, the unseasonable dry weather throughout fall seems likely to continue into the winter.

According to Northern Piedmont Center Manager Greg Lillard, there has not been meaningful rain in the area for more than a month.

October’s rainfall measured in at 2.54 inches, over an inch below the 80-year average of 3.66 inches at the agricultural station on Route 15.

November saw an even larger deficit, with its rainfall of 1.92 inches falling short of the 3.39-inch average.

To date, December’s rainfall has been zilch, leaving the year’s rainfall total at 34.78 inches.

Fortunately, the heavy rainfall in the spring has helped to alleviate the deficiency toward the 80-year annual average of 39.99 inches. 2021 has been a year of sporadic rainfall.

“It would be real mountains and valleys on a graph, whereas we often tend to be kind of like a rolling hill on the [rainfall] line graphs,” said Orange County Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator Kaci Daniel. “It’s been really up and down this year.”

Daniel says that although the weather has been very dry, it still does not classify as a drought quite yet.

The drier-than-usual fall most likely has left farmers with few complaints.

“[Fall crop harvest] should be great because a lot of times harvest gets slowed down because of excessive rain that we would have,” said Lillard.

Daniel added that the fall weather produced a better-quality harvest for local farmers.

“A lot of people don’t have grain storage around here, so they have to basically dry their crops in the field. And so, they need dry weather to get the moisture content out of the grain,” she said.

According to Daniel, the dry weather, coupled with a late frost, led to a later harvest.

“It’s been odd this year, driving around you still see standing grain the first of December. Usually, people are done by then.”

Aside from the lack of precipitation, the area also has been experiencing warmer than usual temperatures.

“The warmer temperatures that we’ve had have helped with grass production,” said Orange County Farm Bureau President Jacob Gilley. “And the livestock feed requirements have been decreased because they don’t burn as many calories because it’s not cold.”

Gilley added that that warmer winter temperatures, which have been a trend of recent years, have forced local farmers to adapt to an altered planting schedule.

“Before, we used to base a lot of what we did off of the calendar. But now, you really have to base it more on recent weather patterns, actual soil temperature and soil moisture,” he said.

Gilley added that the warmer winters of recent years has prompted him to plant more warm weather-appropriate crops.

“We’re planting more native warm season grasses to try and help, more summer annuals and forages that can kind of adapt and deal with the drought-year climate,” said Gilley.

Although a warm, dry fall and winter has not posed many problems for local agriculture, farmers will still hope to see rain in the forecast soon to ensure a prosperous spring.

“At this point, it’s all been somewhat positive, but those benefits aren’t going to necessarily outweigh the negatives if it continues to not precipitate,” Gilley said.

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