MU professor says rain could lead to drought damage in plants

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COLUMBIA - The heavy rains in mid-Missouri could actually lead to drought damage, said one MU plant sciences professor.

David Trinklein is an MU associate professor of plant sciences and a horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension. He said when it rains as much as it has this summer, the soil oxygen concentration is limited. This means the soil fills up with so much water that the roots cannot get the oxygen they need. 

He said the potential drought damage comes in because the water evaporates from the top layer of the soil after the rain stops and temperatures drop.

KOMU 8 News talked to some local nurseries to see if their plants suffered because of the heavy rain.

Giving Gardens Greenhouse Supervisor Carol Gasperson said too much rain, a lack of sunlight and a lack of heat this summer had taken a toll on some of Giving Gardens' plants, such as annuals like purslane.

"A lot of our annuals that are outside have remained too wet and haven't had enough sunlight," Gasperson said. "Therefore, we've had less bloom."

She said many of the greenhouse's plants were too soggy and looked wilted to customers. And she thinks the weather also kept people away this summer.

"It just seems like when it's rainy and cool, people don't shop for plants," Gasperson said. "So one way that the wet, cool season has hurt us is we don't have as many people here looking at our pretty plants."

But Trinklein said unless you grow a garden, you will probably not see the effects of this.

Gasperson said the biggest difference between growing plants at home and at a nursery was that she could control how much water the plants get. She said tomato plants were specifically affected.

"Without enough heat and being too soggy, the tomatoes are not doing well in people's yards, so they've come here to buy our tomatoes," Gasperson said. "Our plants are doing fairly good because they're in a hoophouse, but a lack of sunshine, even in the hoophouse, has made our tomatoes smaller, and the crop has been a lot smaller than we would expect."

To plan for the future, Trinklein said people who plant flowers and vegetables should think about trying to improve drainage of excess water. He said one way to do this is by incorporating organic material.