Corn planting begins, despite dry April

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Higher temperatures in early April led to abnormally dry, moderate drought conditions across Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s April 9 crop progress report found that 93% of topsoil moisture in Virginia was adequate, and 6% was short on soil moisture. Additionally, 12% of subsoil moisture was short and 88% was adequate.

Lynchburg experienced the highest average departure from normal temperatures, with an average high of 73 degrees, which is almost 7 degrees above normal.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. Drought Monitor, 51.4% of Virginia experienced abnormally dry conditions, and 20% had moderate drought as of April 11. March was the eighth driest month on record with 1.8 inches in total precipitation—down almost 2 inches from normal, U.S. Drought Monitor reported.

Despite historically dry conditions, Virginia corn growers have been busy preparing their fields for planting. Since the first week of April, 5% of the state’s corn had been planted, according to the USDA report.

Keith Dunn, a Sussex County farmer, said while conditions were “a little drier than normal for this time of year,” corn planting has been moving along in his area. A majority of the county was classified as “abnormally dry” last week by U.S. Drought Monitor.

However, Dunn said he isn’t experiencing extremely dry conditions on his farm. “We’re back right now to adequate to a little above-adequate soil moisture, so there’s no problems with any planting going on around here right now,” he said.

The southeast region of the U.S. is generally considered “water rich,” but droughts are not uncommon. Drought conditions can develop rapidly when a lack of rain and high temperatures combine to quickly increase the loss of water from the landscape through evapotranspiration, according to NOAA’s Drought Information System.

While soil nutrients are not lost during a drought, heavy rainfall after a dry period can wash away heavy clay that carries valuable nutrients and topsoil, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Extension advises homeowners to incorporate organic matter into clays and other soil types to improve soil structure, mulch to conserve moisture and control soil splashing, or use trickle irrigation near the base of plants to reduce runoff.

For more tips on nutrient management at home, visit