In a turnaround from last season's near-perfect growing conditions, Missouri is in the midst of a crippling drought. Only several border areas and the Bootheel have been spared. The legislative wheels are in motion to have the state declared a disaster area.
Problems began in March. Since then, most of the state has experienced five consecutive months of below-normal precipitation resulting in a rainfall deficit in excess of 8 inches.
“The Bootheel did get some relief when the remnants of Hurricane Dennis dropped some significant rain — from 2 inches to 5 inches,” said Pat Guinan, Missouri Extension state climatologist, in early August. “Unfortunately, as you move outside the Bootheel, the rest of the state missed out and hasn't seen rain in a long time. Over the last six weeks, some locations in the northeast and central parts of the state have had less than half an inch of precipitation. That's ruined many crops and pastures. It's desperate.”
For historical perspective, Guinan said the current drought is comparable to what Missouri saw in 1988. “Then, we had a very dry June and part of July that led to substantial crop reductions across much of the Corn Belt.
“This July, we had six consecutive days of 100-plus degree heat. The state hasn't experienced that since 1980. Those facts put the current drought into perspective. This is a once-in-25-year occurrence.”
In several counties, Guinan said, corn yields have already been reduced 50 percent to 70 percent.
The forecast doesn't look promising. Through mid-August, indications are for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.
“August isn't a time to make a dent in a drought anyway. We're just going to see more of the same.”
As a result of the drought, the state is experiencing severe hydrological effects. “Agriculture hasn't been the only thing impacted. We're seeing river and stream levels dropping. The high temperatures have exacerbated the situation and several communities have imposed water restrictions. That's a testimony to the longevity of this drought.”
A map of Missouri's drought areas can be accessed at: http://www.dnr.state.mo.us/geology/wrp/drought/droughtStatus-7-29-05.htm