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Ag Weather Update

Matt Dixon, Meteorologist

UK Ag Weather Center

Updated 4-6-22

Past Conditions

Mother Nature showed us a little bit of everything last week, ranging from exceptionally high winds to wild temperature swings. Much of the state saw morning lows dip into the low to middle 20s on the 28th. Some even dropped into the upper teens. A very strong storm system then pushed through the area midweek. Ahead of the system, southerly flow increased tremendously across the region. In fact, peak wind gusts topped 40 to 50+ mph for just about everyone (shown below from the Kentucky Mesonet). The Union and Franklin County Mesonet stations even peaked above 70 mph!  


The breezy southerly flow led to a very warm Wednesday with highs topping in the upper 70s to low 80s. Louisville International Airport broke a record at 84 degrees, which was 20 degrees above normal for this time of year. Later in the day, a line of showers and storms took shape ahead of a cold front and gradually pushed east across the Bluegrass State, losing intensity with time. While portions of Western KY exceeded 1 inch, the majority of Eastern KY recorded under a quarter inch.

Outside of some very light showers the rest of the week, this was the last significant rainfall event for the month of March. Overall, preliminary data shows the state averaged 3.62 inches for the month, which is about an inch below normal. This doesn’t tell the whole story as some areas were much drier than others. Below is a look at estimated precipitation across the state for the month of March based on radar data and gauges. Portions of the Northern Bluegrass and South Central/Southeastern KY generally saw less than 3 inches, which is roughly 1 to 2 inches below normal over that time frame.


Following the storm event, the week closed with below normal temperatures in place. Low temperatures dipped into the upper 20s to low 30s both Saturday and Sunday mornings. This prompted the first Freeze Warnings and Frost Advisories of the spring season to be issued by the National Weather Service. These headlines are issued when vegetation becomes susceptible to subfreezing temperatures and we’ve hit that point this year with some strawberries and fruit trees becoming vulnerable. 

While there is some protection measures we can take for fruit crops, winter wheat and alfalfa is another story. Luckily, by most accounts, the extreme cold earlier in the week didn’t affect these crops. Connor Raymond, UK Grains Extension Associate, and Dr. Carrie Knott, UK Extension Grains Specialist, wrote an article on the subject titled, “Early Spring Freeze Effect on Kentucky’s What Crop”. As they mentioned, most of Kentucky wheat is currently in the Feekes 6-7 growth stage (jointing). Outside of a handful of counties in North Central KY and the Bluegrass, most of the major wheat producing counties across the state didn’t drop down to the 24-degree temperature threshold that is typically associated with injury at that stage. 

Similarly, alfalfa should be alright too. Based on the following extension publication, AGR-236 Managing Frost Damaged Alfalfa Stands, injury is more likely when temperatures are below 26 degrees AND 300 growing degree days (base 50) have accumulated. We are running well behind that threshold this year. In fact, much of the state has yet to reach 200 GDD Base 50. Lexington Bluegrass AP currently sits at 140, Bowling Green Warren County AP at 188, and Paducah Barkley RGNL AP at 170.

While the threshold for FREEZE damage to alfalfa may not have been reached, many are now surpassing the 190 Degree Day threshold to start scouting for alfalfa weevil. Below is a look at the current map as of April 5, 2021, which can be accessed using the UK Ag Weather Center’s Insect Degree Day Maps. Dr. Ric Bessin, UK Extension Entomology Specialist, talked about the scouting process and insecticide applications in a recent article in Kentucky Pest News, here. The latest Kentucky Crop Progress and Condition Report, released this past Monday, mentions that the pest has been observed. Time to scout!

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The month of March was pretty dry, but we're opening up the month of April on the other side of the spectrum. Below is a look at 48-hour precipitation totals from the Kentucky Mesonet, valid 4/6/22 at 4PM. Much of Kentucky, east of a Bowling Green to Lexington line, has picked up in excess of three quarters of an inch. While Southeastern KY is still lacking compared to the rest of the state, their time is coming as a cold front continues to work east this evening. Based on current model data, another quarter to half inch+ is in play. In addition, this portion of Kentucky could also see some severe weather this evening with damaging winds as the primary threat, but an isolated tornado and/or large hail cannot be ruled out. Stay weather aware!


A slow-moving disturbance aloft will lead to cloudy and cool days through Saturday. We’ll see occasional showers, but light in nature. Suppose we could see some flakes of snow on Friday night, but it won’t amount to anything. Highs will be limited to the 40s and 50s and lows in the 30s. We could even see some subfreezing temperatures on Sunday morning. Below is a look at those forecast lows from the National Weather Service with many in the upper 20s to low 30s. Be sure to protect sensitive vegetation. After the cool start, temperature start an upward trend into the new workweek, when 70-degree temperatures work back into the area. The next significant system arrives mid-week, but it’s still a little early to be talking specifics. Stay tuned!


Related News from UK and Beyond

Kentucky Forage News - Updated April 1, 2021

Kentucky Crop Progress and Condition Report - USDA NASS Kentucky Field Office, April 4, 2022

Equine Science Review - Holly Wiemers, UK Ag Equine Programs, March 2022

Fire Blight Alert & Risk Map Overview - Nicole Gauthier, UK Plant Pathology Extension Specialist, and Kimberly Leonberger, Plant Pathology Extension Associate, April 5, 2022

Don’t Let the Heat Stress Thief Rob You This Spring!! - Donna M. Amaral-Phillips


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