Missouri drought intensifies, ranks ‘extreme’ in northwest

By: 
Duane Dailey

Droughts end. They always do. But when? That’s the needed answer.

This drought keeps getting worse by the week. Most of Missouri is dry. This week the U.S. Drought Monitor increased the dryness score for most of North Missouri west of a line from Columbia to Kirksville.

The drought map shows that area bright red. We’re Extreme Drought, running 10 inches below normal rainfall.

What’s worse is that on the US. Map northwest Missouri marks center of a bullseye. Except for western Kansas and a bit of Iowa other Corn Belt states are far less dry. Some show near normal.

That doesn’t bode well for Missouri farmers.

In the write up, they tell a difference between agricultural and hydrological droughts. The latter moves beyond the impact on farming.

This week, they tell of the city lake at Hamilton, Mo. Water level almost falls below the town’s water intake. That could lead to severe cutbacks and closing of businesses. Drought becomes serious for most Missourians.

Drought is based on lack of rain. Hot temperatures make drought worse.

Last week, I walked out of the office into a blast of hot wind from the Southwest. That was dry. Young trees getting started in the front yard looked grey, not green. MU groundskeepers can’t keep up watering them.

On the farm side the impact is unknown. But, livestock farmers seem hit harder earlier. Pastures dried up, starting late last summer. There was little winter grazing and hay baling was cut short.

Not a lot of bales are in hay sheds. We’d sent hay to Oklahoma and Kansas that had been hit hard earlier. Hay prices shot up. Now, hay prices are out of sight here.

Farm talk says cows are going to the sale barn. Scott Brown, MU beef economist, says sale numbers aren’t as bad as the stories tell. But, I see the last quarter numbers made a jump.

Now, Missouri crop farmers are concerned. In the weekly field crops teleconference extension agents report early corn ear drop. That means corn is ready for harvest. Most reporters hadn’t seen that by Aug. 1 before.

This week some reported soybean fields only 5 inches tall, far below normal. Double-crop beans didn’t get started.

That drought map showing us in the bulls eye, means Missouri crop farmers may be hit harder than farmers in neighboring states.

MU state forage specialists have told grass farmers to prepare for the coming fall rains. That’s normal. I’ve written those stories about boosting winter pastures. Apply nitrogen, about 40 pounds. That will increase fall grass growth for use in winter grazing.

Our MU Extension beef nutritionist comes from New Mexico. He’s busy sharing drought feeding tips.

Earlier there were forecasts of more hurricanes this season. In the past those brought drought-breaking rains in September. The latest Gulf forecasts don’t call for more storms.

Temperatures cause more havoc for herd owners. Bulls don’t work well in hot weather. And, their semen quality drops drastically. They may breed cows, but it’s just practice. Few pregnancies result.

There’s far more interest now in seeding warm-season grasses. Things change as drought hangs on.

The Drought Monitor outlook doesn’t help. Warm temperatures continue through the rest of this year into next planting season. No great recovery seen in rainfall. They forecast EC (Equal Chances) of rain, or not.

My life is marked by droughts. I was born in the era of the Dust Bowl droughts. I don’t recall that. But my Mom told of wiping Kansas dust off her furniture.

I still worked on our family farm in the droughts of the 1950s. It was exhausting and frustrating, I recall. I’ve written about several big droughts since then. The 2012 drought was an economy changer.

This one will be also.

Send your drought stories to duanedailey7@gamail,com. I sense the extreme drought goes beyond what shows on Thursday’s map.

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