Continued rain is worrying area farmers as it washes away prime planting season — late April-early May — said Ed Lentz, Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources.

A late start in planting means crops’ roots will be shallower and more vulnerable when the hotter, drier season comes, he said Friday.

“We’re at the mercy of what happens later on this year,” Lentz said.

Even a rain-free weekend may not be enough to end the planting delay.

“We are so saturated, our soils, that it’s going to take some serious days of no rain and good temperatures and wind to get this dried out,” Lentz said.

“This spring we have never really dried out. We’re not getting a lot of rain right now, but we’re already saturated, so it doesn’t take much to keep everything wet and not drying.”

Meanwhile, the days keep passing.

“After the 10th of May, every time we get delayed it makes it more difficult to get high yields,” he said. “We can still get a respectable crop, but we start losing that edge.”

Farmers have dealt with late starts a couple of times in recent years and still achieved good yields.

In 2011, many fields were not planted until late May or early June.

“We came out OK, because we had really good conditions later on in the summer and a fall for harvest,” Lentz said. “But you can’t count on that, and so that’s where that nervousness and the heartburn comes in.”

Already, much of the safety margin for unfavorable weather later this growing season has been lost.

“We really are at the mercy with what the rest of the season does, things such as we don’t get dry weather, things such as we don’t get an early frost since we didn’t get an early start,” he said.

Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin