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Farmers concerned about lack of rain during extremely dry winter season

Agricultural field
Crops soak up the sun at Talley Farms outside Arroyo Grande Monday morning. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. -- Monday marked another day of no rain for the Central Coast, continuing an extended dry trend that has dominated the winter season.

Since a wet start to the season in December, there has been very little precipitation over the past two months.

January and February have seen no significant rainstorms to date, raising concerns the entire season could be a bust in terms of replenishing diminishing reservoirs and groundwater supplies.

We were blessed with a tremendous amount of rainfall in December, which gave us all a lot of hope, but then it did not rain at all in January and February is shaping up to be pretty dry as well," said Talley Vineyards CEO Brian Talley. "I love beautiful weather just as much as the next person, but we do need some rain."

For area farmers, the lack of rain is especially troublesome. Talley said the farm has received eight inches below the normal amount seen at this time for the rain season.

"It's concerning," said Talley. "We need water for the wine grapes that we grow, as well as the vegetables, and lemons and avocados, and basically who we're trying to deal with this is by irrigating more in the wintertime than we normally would."

As a result, the farm is having to rely more and more on supplemental irrigation to help crops grow.

"Natural rainfall is superior to irrigation water," said Talley. "One thing that folks don't realize is that rain water is very soft. It tends to be more acidic than our natural irrigation water, which is very alkaline, and so consequently, plants really respond much better to natural rainfall."

In the Santa Maria Valley, growers are also dealing with the same dry conditions.

West Coast Berry Farms grower/manager Tim Driscoll also expressed growing concerns with the dry winter weather and its long range impacts.

"We're in kind of a precarious position farming," said Driscoll. "We're literally betting the farm on getting water and not just well water, which is what we depend on, but also the rainwater and filling the aquifers because we use wells, but the wells come from the aquifers down below, so if we don't get enough rain to fill those aquifers, then that's a problem."

Looking ahead, the forecast calls for a slight chance of rain on Tuesday, but it wouldn't be enough to provide any sort of impact.

"We can take that water and it will help wash the plants and add a little bit more to the ground, and that's always beneficial," said Driscoll. "We'll take what we can get. I don't know what we're going to get tomorrow is going to amount to much. It's not going to be a saving thing, but it's a little bit more than we otherwise might have. We're hoping for the best and more to come."

Both Talley and Driscoll are hoping for a big turnaround in the weather in the weeks to come, crossing their fingers the final month of the winter season will be much wetter than the last several weeks.

"I don't think about the potential of a 'Miracle March,'" said Talley. "That has happened before where we've gotten a tremendous amount, as much as 10 inches of rain in March, and that could still happen and that's what we're hoping for."

"March coming and we're hoping for more rain in March and the support that we need from that rain," said Driscoll. "We'll do our best to survive it."

Article Topic Follows: Agriculture

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.


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