Plentiful September rains and continued moisture in October, normally the direst month of the year in Indiana, leaves weather experts believing that subsoil recharge won't be an issue in Indiana and much of the Eastern Corn Belt by planting time next spring.
Ken Scheeringa, associate Indiana state climatologist, says that once the drought broke and the rains came, although it took a while, moisture conditions began to improve.
Subsoil moisture recharge during the fall and winter is important because crops are not pulling water out and losing it through transpiration and evaporation. This past summer at the hottest and driest part of the summer, in early July, loss rates per acre of corn per day reached as high as 0.4 inches, much above normal. Crops in that situation exhaust subsoil reserves and must depend on current rainfall to move forward. When the rainfall didn't come, many crops, especially corn, succumbed and turned out low yields.
Scheeringa says that as of Halloween, the subsoil in many parts of Indiana is already recharged. Some farmers have reported tile lines running again, although it has been a slow process. Those who dig ditches and pound posts for a living say that it took a while for the moisture to move down into the soil once rains finally returned.
What encourages Scheeringa is that he believes moisture that continued to fall in October and that he expects in winter will complete the job of recharging any subsoil which is still light on moisture. So, when spring planting arrives, the subsoil will be fully recharged. That gives crops a leg up on withstanding early dry conditions. Most weather experts agree that the worst droughts, like that of 2012, start with subsoil recharge below normal.