Trends of increasing temperatures, rainfall posing challenges for Ky. farmers

Kentucky

While more rainfall can produce higher yielding crops, these wetter conditions also make it harder for farmers to get out and manage their fields, leading to issues of disease and bugs. (FOX 56)

CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) – When comparing the past two decades of climate normals, central and eastern parts of the Commonwealth have seen a 7-10% rise in annual precipitation.

While more rainfall can produce higher yielding crops, these wetter conditions also make it harder for farmers to get out and manage their fields, leading to issues of disease and bugs.

“Planted early beans this year and we ended up replanting almost 900 acres of beans, so that was due mainly to slugs,” Clark County farmer Brennan Gilkison said.

And according to experts at the University of Kentucky, some of these issues have only gotten worse over the past few years.

“I’ve been here 19 years now, we’ve had slug damage somewhere in the stage every year, the last three years, we’ve had slug damage across the entire, not just the state, but region,” said Chad Lee, the director of the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence at UK.

While farmers can only replant where slugs have damaged crops, many are beginning to reduce tilling their fields and introducing cover crop in the off season to combat the erosion problem as heavy rain events become more common.

“Fields that don’t have a cover crop or some sort of heavy residue, even if they’re no-till, have had some erosion take place and we haven’t seen that before so even the big step of no-till isn’t enough with the rainfall that we’re getting now,” Lee said.

Another way farmers are battling against our changing climate is with genetically modified organisms or GMOs for short, which help farmers have more success and doesn’t affect humans or animals.

“Using the GMO crop is like using a smart phone to send a text message versus an old flip phone, they both can do it but the GMO makes it much, much easier,” Lee said.

And while excessive rainfall has been causing issues now, the slow rise in average temperatures will also become a problem over time.

“That’s more respiration, that’s more water loss taking place within the crop, which means we need more water to grow the crop. So, that combination will be a concern for us down the road,” Lee said.

According to both Lee and Gilkison, while this year’s crops have been doing well so far, these next three weeks will be critical for how their yields turns out come harvest.

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