We typically think of rain as being good for plants, but as with anything, timing is key.
Too much springtime rain can force farmers to delay planting schedules by several weeks. This is currently the case for farmers in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest regions of the United States, where a rainy yet warm April has been interfering with the normal agricultural agenda.
Heavy rains leave fields too soggy for planting. AgWeb reports that corn and spring wheat are especially behind when compared to previous years.
However, these regions are still early in the planting season. Corn planting typically begins in mid-March and ramps up especially in mid-April and May. Farm Bureau reports that there is still potential for further delays, as average to above-average levels of precipitation are predicted, but significant problems aren’t likely due to the time left in the planting season.
Precipitation can muddy-up and oversaturate fields. This is true even when the precipitation is frozen, as melting snows can also oversaturate the earth. And if plants get in the ground just before a bad rainstorm, washouts due to flooding can occur.
Delays are frustrating to farmers in part because they cause production problems later down the road. If a farmer rushes to plant a large amount of his crop in the short window between storms, they may end up with a larger-than-average amount ripening at the same time. This might overwhelm processors, who won’t be able to put the high volume of crops in whatever product they make.
Not only that, but heavy downpours can damage crops. Berries especially are sensitive to harsh precipitation, and damages can be costly in some occasions. However, plants continue to produce once the ruined berries are taken off.
The state of California especially is viewing heavy rain as a mixed blessing. After a long, tough drought, farmers are hopeful that their fields will be more productive this year. However, heavy rains have been complicating their springtime somewhat.
In other parts of the country, and the rest of the world, recent rains have been more of a plus. In cattle-heavy northern Arkansas, which has struggled with a drought for much of the year, rains have been good for grass.