Yes Rap­pa­han­nock, the drought has of­fi­cially ended

Rappahannock News - - COUNTRYSID­E - By Rox­anna Pearl Beebe-cen­ter

The past few months have been filled with tor­ren­tial down­pours and heavy black rain clouds around every corner. The ground is a soggy, sat­u­rated mess.

In fact, some Vir­ginia re­gions have had two months worth of rain in two weeks. You may be glad the rain has graced our skies, or you may be feel­ing bogged down by the con­stant show­ers. What­ever your stance on the wet weather, there is some good news.

Last fall, we had a ground­wa­ter emer­gency and stream flow watch. The North­ern Pied­mont re­gion in­clud­ing Rap­pa­han­nock County was the only re­gion in the state to is­sue a Drought Emer­gency, the most se­ri­ous drought stage clas­si­fi­ca­tion. Af­ter all the rain we’ve had re­cently, the pre­cip­i­ta­tion, ground­wa­ter, stream­flow, and reser­voir lev­els have re­turned to nor­mal. The drought is of­fi­cially over.

Ground­wa­ter lev­els are a huge fac­tor in the way that drought sever­ity is mea­sured. Ground wa­ter is the amount of wa­ter in the soil deep, deep, down. Ground wa­ter is fed by rain­fall and sur­face wa­ter. Ac­cord­ing to NOAA, Ground­wa­ter is mea­sured by a “net­work of wells, which mon­i­tor the depth of the wa­ter ta­ble.” This data is then com­pared to records of the well, and an as­sess­ment is made.

That said, the re­cent down­pours don’t ben­e­fit every­one. A large amount of farm­ers say they fa­vor drought to ex­u­ber­ant amounts of rain. Rain can rot pro­duce while still at­tached to its vine. It also stim­u­lates fun­gal growth that kills plants like grapes. The rain causes par­a­sites

to flour­ish, de­creas­ing the qual­ity of wool on sheep. The wa­ter and hu­mid­ity gen­er­ates foot rot in cat­tle and equines. The wa­ter can drown young plants, de­stroy hay, and do much, much more.

I asked Carl Hen­rick­son of Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton Win­ery about the rain’s ef­fect on grapes in his vine­yard. He said that rain is prof­itable for the first three years, and drought is ben­e­fi­cial for grapes once they be­gin to blos­som.

“Grapes like to suf­fer, in the broad­est con­text,” Hen­rick­son says “They don’t like fer­tile soil, and they don’t like a lot of wa­ter.”

Ideally, he said, there should be no rain be­tween the fruit set and the harvest. If this does hap­pen, “We will end up with clus­ters of grapes that are a lit­tle smaller, a lit­tle lighter, but the juices that are there in­side that grape are solely a func­tion of the pho­to­syn­thetic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the sun, the leaf, the dirt, and the fruit, not di­luted by a sin­gle drop of wa­ter.”

To dumb it down, the grape juice will be more in­tense. The op­po­site is true for ex­ces­sive rain. If there is too much wa­ter, the juice pro­duced by those grapes will be weak and wa­tery.

Turns out the rain can be both a bur­den and a bless­ing. Whether the rain is ru­in­ing your fields or help­ing your crops, it’s just mother na­ture telling us who’s boss.

Al­though, the re­cent down­pours don’t ben­e­fit every­one. A large amount of farm­ers say they fa­vor drought to ex­u­ber­ant amounts of rain.

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