Rain over the weekend, along with more precipitation forecast for today and perhaps on Thursday, is good news for area farmers. But the outlook for a lot of late-planted corn north of Interstate 70 remains bleak, with plants dead or dying due to a lack of moisture and scorching late-summer temperatures.
Tim Dreier, executive director of the USDA's local Farm Service Agency office, said much of northwestern Nodaway County has escaped the worst of the drought, with projected corn harvest levels projected at "normal" or above, or around 130 bushels per acre.
But Drier added that the eastern part of the county has not been so fortunate, with some harvest projections in the Ravenwood/Parnell area ranging as low as 80 or 90 bushels.
Further to the east in Gentry, Harrison and Grundy counties, the dry weather has proved little short of disastrous with many producers already in the field cutting stunted corn for use as silage.
Maryville received 67 hundredths of an inch of rain over the weekend with possibly more on the way. But Dreier said the precipitation has come too late to help the corn crop, which is essentially done and awaiting harvest in a couple of weeks. Soybeans, however, won't be harvested for at least another month and should still benefit from additional moisture, he said.
Taken altogether, much of Nodaway County appears to have dodged a dry-weather bullet aimed directly at farmers across much of the rest of northern Missouri.
"As corn and soybean plants entered critical seed-filling periods this year, drought returned to some parts of Missouri with a vengeance," said University of Missouri Extension agronomist Bill Wiebold said last week.
To sustain high yields, corn and soybean crops need at least a inch of rain weekly, Wiebold said, and that simply hasn't happened, with portions of north central and northeastern Missouri recording zero rainfall in seven of the last nine weeks.
MU corn specialist Brent Myers said some corn is showing signs of senescing — drying from the top of the stalk down instead of from the ground up — as well as early ear drop. Other plants are showing a black layer at the base of the kernel, an indication that dry matter has quit accumulating, resulting in lower test weights.
In a year of weather extremes, late spring rain and low temperatures prevented corn planting during the optimal period before June 1 and set the stage for yield losses due to disease.
Late-planted corn also failed to pollinate well, Myers said.
Wiebold agreed that 2013’s wet spring and dry summer combined to create a dismal scenario for crop yields across much of the state.
"Because drought stress occurred during mid-to-late summer, the yield component affected most will be seed size," Wiebold said. "Small corn kernels result in low test weights. Small soybean seeds may not affect test weight, but clearly reduce yields."
Page 2 of 2 - Myers said this year's roller-coaster weather is similar to that of 2011, when a cool, wet spring was followed by extremely dry, hot weather. Sandwiched between those years was the historic 2012 drought.
On Sept. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Survey reported 99 percent of northeastern Missouri was short of topsoil moisture. The U.S. Drought Monitor showed nearly 30 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought, with the most intense lack of rainfall across northern Missouri.
MU climatologist Pat Guinan said it has been the driest August across northern Missouri in three decades, or since 1984, with weather stations at Kirksville, Edina, Macon and Brookfield reporting the driest August on record.