By Clint Thompson
Lack of rainfall in March in Florida could have major implications for Florida agriculture. David Zierden, a state climatologist at Florida State University’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, said most of the state is currently experiencing conditions that are drier than normal.
“With these very warm temperatures we’ve seen in the month of March and only fractions of an inch of rainfall over most of the peninsula, it’s definitely time to designate most of the peninsula as abnormally dry,” Zierden said. “If we continue with these high temperatures and little to no rainfall, which we don’t really have much in the forecast for the next week, certainly at this time of year conditions could get worse in a short period of time.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 67% of the state’s population resides in counties classified as abnormally dry or worse. Most of Wakulla County, Florida and part of Jefferson County, Florida are deemed ‘D2’ status which is a severe drought.
Zierden believes the portion of Florida agriculture that is being impacted the most is with pastures and hay and forage production.
Florida farmers need to be wary, though, that more serious drought conditions could be on the way.
“So far in the month of March, we’re basically three weeks in now, most of the peninsula has only gotten a few hundredths or a few tenths of an inch of rainfall. It was back in February that there was really any appreciable rainfall across the peninsula,” Zierden said.
Zierden specified that between mid-October and mid-May is typically a dry season anyway for Florida. But this year it’s been abnormally drier.
“It’s always difficult to differentiate between just our normal seasonal dryness and what is drought. In the last three months, there’s consistent rainfall deficits of 4 to 5 inches across much of the peninsula. We’re certainly drier than normal. This is the critical time as temperatures increase and the growing season starts, the lack of rainfall can really magnify at this time of year,” Zierden said.