~ June 11, 2023
“Drought Takes Hold After a Warm and Dry May” ~ Dr. Trent Ford, Illinois State Climatologist
Dr. Trent Ford reported on June 5, 2023, “The preliminary statewide average May temperature was 63.7 degrees, 0.4 degrees above the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 46th warmest on record going back to 1895. The preliminary statewide average total May precipitation was 2.71 inches, 2.06 inches below the 1991–2020 average and the 28th driest on record statewide.”
At our nursery, it has also been unusually dry this spring. As with much of the state, we have officially moved into a moderate drought designation in Grundy County according to the US Drought Monitor. Luckily, we have had a few crucial rains here and there to fend off any serious issues, but overall we definitely feel the effects of the dry conditions. We work closely with the Illinois State Climatologist, Dr. Trent Ford. Here is a link to his webpage which is a wealth of information for all of us working outside and following weather conditions: https://
I reached out to Dr. Ford a few days ago to ask him how this spring compares to the last official drought in Illinois in 2012. He had this to say, “That’s a good question. 2012 was much warmer earlier in the spring, with several days in upper 80s in March and April, so the plants were active earlier. This year’s spring was drier than 2012, but we also had a wetter winter than the 2011-12 winter, so we came into the spring with much wetter soils and higher water tables. That’s helped a little with avoiding serious impacts so far.”
He also added, “The 2012 drought intensified very quickly in mid- to late-June because of bone-dry conditions and multiple days with highs in the upper 90s. Forecasts are mixed right now, but do show better chances of rain and seasonable temperatures over the next 1-2 weeks. So, if we can get multiple storm systems in and keep an active pattern through June and into July, we won’t see the impacts like we did in 2012. If we continue missing rain and ramp up on the heat in the next 2-4 weeks, we could find ourselves in a similar position as 2012 in July and August. One other difference is that 2012 was bad everywhere but worst in southern and central IL. This year’s drought has been worst in northeast and east-central IL.”
For more info from Dr. Ford, here a link to his webpage specifically about Drought in Illinois: https://stateclimatologist.web.illinois.edu/drought-in-illinois/
Here at the nursery, we have had a watering crew of 3 on non-stop water duty around the nursery. The team has been focusing solely on our newly planted liners from this spring. Because of our long-standing soil conservation practices at the nursery, our soil has excellent water holding capacity. The newly planted crop seems to be hanging in there so far, and our crew is doing an excellent job staying ahead of the dry conditions. It gives us some peace of mind to water them through this period just to stay ahead of the developing situation. The cool weather has also been working to our advantage to help the soil retain more moisture. For more established crops in the field, we are seeing phenomenal growth despite the drought. This give us hope that our good soil is holding enough water for what the trees need to grow and thrive.
We would love to hear from you about how plants are doing in your community and how the drought is affecting your operations. And if you are not already doing so, make sure to water all trees recently transplanted in the last few seasons. And the last call to action… do a little rain dance! At least that makes this drought a bit more fun 🙂
As I write this post, it’s a “rainy” Sunday afternoon where another storm has blown up but fizzled out. We will probably only hit around one tenth on the rain gauge. A little rain is better than none, and the temps are cool so that’s a plus! As farmers, the effect of weather is something we learn to accept and adapt to in the field. In the end, it’s much easier to look on the bright side – even though right now I am hoping for a dark rain cloud to move in!
~ Becky Thomas, SGN Trees Grower