Some Missouri farmers say their crops have yielded more than they expected despite another year of drought. Persistent drought, however, has significantly reduced pasture conditions across the state.
Brian Lehman, vice president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association and a corn and soybean farmer in Versailles, Missouri, says he was prepared to write off his corn crop as a loss back in July. However, a significant rain event that brought five to eight inches across the state caused flash flooding and brought his crops back to life.
“Everything just responded unbelievably,” Lehman says. “We were pretty well given up,” he notes. In fact, many people had called him wanting to purchase corn for silage.
Lehman says that they had been preparing to chop their corn for silage when the rain in early August turned things around.
Drought conditions in his area transitioned from D4 exceptional drought to D3 severe drought after much-needed precipitation fell, Lehman says.
The latest drought monitor map shows that none of Missouri is currently in D4 exceptional drought. Ten percent of the state’s acres are in D3 severe drought. Nearly 18% is in D2 severe drought, while almost 32% is in D1 moderate drought. Just shy of a quarter is abnormally dry, while the remaining 16% of the state is drought free.
“It just turned brown pastures to green and they grew,” Lehman says. He notes that every weed that had a seed in the ground at that time also germinated and sprouted as a result of the rain, making for “some pretty ugly pastures.”
When it comes to yields, Lehman says that his corn yields are anywhere from 60 bushels per acre (bpa) to 120 bpa. His soybeans have yielded 45 to 60 bpa this year.
Lehman says yields are definitely better than what he experienced in 2012. After all, in 2012, Lehman says that heat during pollination resulted in no corn on the cobs. This year, “genetics and rainfall timing was everything,” Lehman says when it came to keeping yields up.
While his corn crop managed to do better this year versus 2012, Lehman says that the pastures he runs his cow/calf operation on haven’t fared as well.
For two weeks over the summer, Lehman found himself hauling water to his cattle. Thankfully he says the August rains helped fill up ponds, creeks and improve his farm’s subsoil moisture. However, he says moisture is going to be needed this winter to help replenish soil moisture.
USDA’s Crop Progress report for the week ending Oct. 8 shows that topsoil moisture supplies rated 29% very short, 34% short, and 37% adequate. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 26% very short, 44% short, and 30% adequate.
To help keep moisture within his soil, Lehman says he plans to plant cover crops “to try and keep the soil loose and productive for next year.” He also notes that he can feed the cover crops to his cattle since hay supplies are limited after the dry summer.
Sarah Kenyon, a field specialist in agronomy at the University of Missouri Extension, says drought conditions began last year, only letting up periodically.
Although drought conditions continue to persist across the state of Missouri, overall conditions aren’t as severe as the previous year, says Kenyon. “This year conditions aren’t as severe partly because the air temperature has not been as high,” Kenyon says.
Pasture conditions have been hit hard by the continued drought, Kenyon says. “Many farmers have described harvesting less hay,” she notes. “On average I hear reports of a third less than normal.”
Additionally, Kenyon says that farmers are culling their cattle herds and having to feed more hay than usual due to reduced pasture conditions. She’s been told by farmers that ponds are also going dry, including ones that didn’t go dry last year.
Pasture conditions, according to USDA’s Crop Progress report for the week ending Oct. 8, shows that pasture conditions are predominantly poor. They rated 16% very poor, 43% poor, 30% fair, and 11% good.