The wet weather that has nearly drowned west central Missouri over the past six weeks is much more than an annoyance. Gov. Jay Nixon’s declaration of a state of emergency makes that point clear, but the impact of all of that rain is being felt on many fronts.
Brent Carpenter, agricultural business specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Service in Pettis County, said the soggy start to the summer has brought back memories of 1993, “the year it never stopped raining.” The abundance of rain and the resulting saturated soil means no field work has been possible, and that is pushing back planting to the point that “some fields will not get planted.”
“It’s not going to be a good crop year,” Carpenter said. “We need it to stop and the sun to come out or it could be a really serious loss.”
In the case of wheat, he said, “A lot of fields won’t be good even if (farmers) can combine it” due to moisture-enhanced molds and disease. Carpenter believes most of the corn fields in Pettis County were planted.
“If it would dry out, we may have a reasonable corn crop but (farmers) spent a lot of money on fertilizer that has leeched out,” he said, adding that he fears corn rot could settle in as rains continue.
Typically by this point in the year more than 80 percent of soybeans have been planted, “but right now we’re sitting at less than a third and it is getting late fast,” Carpenter said. “There are just not enough growing days left to make a good soybean crop. If it dried out now and everyone planted tomorrow, we’re still looking at 20 percent to 25 percent less yield.”
The wet weather is affecting more than crops. Livestock could be developing hoof issues due to constantly standing in wet fields and internal parasites from consuming damp forage. All of this stands in stark contrast to the 2014 growing season.
“Last year we had a bumper crop. We obliterated the old corn record,” Carpenter said. “Now we are looking at less-than-average (yields) and farmers are dealing with prices that are at or below the price of production. … That’s going to have an impact.”
In the city, Sedalia Public Works Director Bill Beck said rain has reduced his team’s ability to start and complete an array of projects. Beck and Streets Superintendent Jeff McKinney said concrete work has been reduced by 50 percent, as have the asphalt, street maintenance and pot hole programs. Mowing and tree trimming also have been significantly reduced.
“One of the tough things is we do a lot of chip and seal as (road) maintenance,” Beck said. “Generally it is hot enough about now to do that and we do it until the hot weather is gone. Some of that work just won’t get done this year,” due to the delays.
When there are a few dry days, city crews focus on mowing duties before shifting to road maintenance.
Like Beck, Jud Kindle is hoping to have more than a few dry days strung together. As general manager for the Sedalia Bombers baseball team, Kindle saw a home stand that included five games get washed away by rain.
“Where it hurts the most is the pitching staff,” Kindle said. “We bring in enough pitchers to get us through 44 nine-inning ballgames stretched out over a two-month period, and now we’re going to have to get 44 games in a month and a half – a lot of double-headers. We’re definitely going to have to go out and get a couple more arms to make it work, and it is hard to find arms at this point in the summer.”
Jared Leighton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Pleasant Hill, said the recent precipitation will continue to pose problems in the short term.
“The rain we have received so far has saturated the ground enough and the rivers are swollen enough that even a small amount of rain can become a pretty high-impact event,” he said. “Also complicating this is the amount of moisture in the atmosphere over (central Missouri) is high. When you combine that saturated soil with a very efficient rain-making process in the atmosphere, it could lead to (flooding).”
Looking forward, Leighton said the heavy and seemingly nonstop precipitation patterns are not expected to persist through the summer. That is at least mildly comforting to Carpenter.
“We’re going to need a lot of sun and breezy days to get out of this,” he said. “You’re talking about 10 days before getting into the field – that is putting us near the first of July and that is too late.
“It’s sort of like the drought, you don’t know how long it is going to last,” Carpenter continued. “You’d know how to react and how to manage your business if you knew when it was going to end, but we don’t have that option. It’s going to be a lean year for farmers.”