Metro-East News

July 31, 2014

Dry July hasn't threatened local crops -- yet

The metro-east hasn't received any significant rainfall since July 14 and is nearly 2.5 inches below average rainfall for the month.

But experts say we're not yet in drought conditions and area crops are not in immediate danger.

"We had about .02 inches of rain on the 25th and that's it for the last couple of weeks," National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller said. "July ended up with about 1.59 inches of rain."

That's about 2.5 inches below the average for the month, 4.11 inches.

"But we're not technically in a drought right now," he said.

Greg Guenther, vice president of the Mon-Clair Corn Growers Association and a farmer near Belleville, said crops are holding out so far. But they're going to need some rain soon to avoid problems.

"Thanks to the earlier spring rains we have plenty of soil moisture," Guenther said. But that doesn't mean we couldn't use a nice shower. Rain now would be a really nice finish for the corn.

"If it gets too dry in late July, ears start to abort kernels. It's not going to be the issue it was a couple of years ago when we really were dry and farmers were losing their crops. But the yield is potentially being threatened at that point. We'll lose the top end."

Guenther was looking at the forecast, hoping a 20 percent of showers forecast for the weekend comes through.

"On soybeans, their really critical period would be like the second half of August," Guenther said. "Before that, they can survive, growing their pods. But when they really start filling them out is toward the end of the month. That is when they could really use a shower -- or two."

While rainfall has been less than ideal lately, Guenther said this summer has been much kinder to area farmers than recent years -- when they've suffered through long droughts and periods of sustained high temperatures.

"Compared to the last few years, it's been a good summer," Guenther said. "We haven't had a 100 degree day yet and we have had the temperature differential at night.

"Corn really likes to see it cool off at night to give it a rest," Guenther said. "I think about every day we've had that temperature differential. It's been outstanding for corn and beans."

Miller said the forecast for August could go either way.

"The next week or two the forecast still calls for a pretty high likelihood of below-normal temperatures and dry weather," Miller said. "Persistence, at this time of year, is generally the rule. If you're in a stormy pattern, it's probably going to stay that way. If it's dry, things will probably stay dry."

But he said that the St. Louis metro area is near the spot where weather patterns collide. And if the southern weather system pushes a little bit farther north with wet Gulf of Mexico air, it could provide the needed rain.

"With the wind field the way it has been, our weather systems have been coming out of the north and the moisture source is basically cut off," Miller said. "When we have a front that comes through that would usually produce a band of showers or storms. But there isn't enough moisture to do much. We need to get that dry air out of here to bring in the rain."

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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