A Season Without A Drink

by Curt Kovener

Farmers have had it tough this growing season. Cool wet spring, rains that came as a deluge (there was 8.35 inches that fell in the wilderness this spring), and then the faucet turned off and it got #$%^& hot for the summer.
But crop producers are not the only ones showing signs of stress…financial and otherwise
Leaves have been changing colors and falling since the second week of September here in the wilderness. An indication of an early fall?
It could be an early sign of autumn. Or it could be caused by a fungus called anthraxnose that was brought on by the heavy rains in May or the drought that followed in the summer, according to John Seifert, state forester for Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
“Anthraxnose can cause lots of discoloration and drought can push things along quicker,” he said.
Rosie Lerner, an extension consumer horticulture specialist at Purdue University, agreed that the shortage of rain and the period of high heat this summer is probably the reason some trees and shrubs are turning, rather than being some sort of harbinger of an early autumn.
“Sometimes all of these factors have a cumulative effect on forests,” said Seifert.
Though Jackson & Scott Counties set records for rainfall in May, the summer months— June, July and August— ended up with well below normal precipitation, said Chris Roller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Autumn official began last Monday, Sept. 23. For the remainder of autumn, predictions are calling for a slightly better chance for higher-than-normal temperatures, said Roller.
Stress, disease, drought will probably subdue the annual fall colors. And, even with precipitation in the winter and spring, it comes at a time when trees are dormant, not growing and absorbing moisture. The summer of drought will manifest itself for some years to come as weaker, older, diseased trees fail to recover from a season without a drink.
Don’t be surprised—but be disappointed—if fall colors are subdued and leaves just fall while green or brown. Get out your yard rake.