Missouri's steady rainfall affects corn crop, events, projects

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | 9:02 p.m. CDT; updated 9:10 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — April's steady precipitation is already delaying this year's corn crop.

The persistent rain is also slowing construction projects, making golf courses soggy and canceling a number of sporting events.

So far in April, 3.92 inches of rain have been measured, with half falling in the past seven days, according to the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

Rain is expected again Tuesday night and Wednesday, with clear skies Thursday and Friday and another round of rain over the weekend.

Ideally, corn crops are planted in early April to be ready for harvest in late August. But wet conditions are setting mid-Missouri farmers back.

As of Sunday, only 28 percent of Missouri's corn had been planted, according to a USDA crop progress report . By the same date last year, 65 percent of the corn had been planted.

According to Max Starbuck director of production, stewardship and livestock for the National Corn Grower's Association, recent weather conditions can negatively affect the yield.

The conditions can create an inhospitable environment for corn seeds and stall or prevent germination.

If yield declines, the extended rainfall coupled with an increasing demand for corn could boost the price of corn.

The recent string of wet days, especially on weekends, is pushing sporting enthusiasts inside.

Gabe Huffington, who oversees field conditions for the Columbia Parks and Recreation, said the rain led to game cancellations for recreation league teams over the weekend. 

"Friday and Saturday we had to cancel our baseball and softball games, but our soccer and lacrosse games played over the weekend," Huffington said. "So we are running at about 50 percent."

Rock Bridge High School experienced similar cancellations.

Jennifer Mast, athletic director for the high school, said soccer, baseball and golf were canceled Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Games will be rescheduled later in the season, she said. 

"We make every attempt to reschedule, but because it's so late in the spring season, sometimes there just isn't time," Mast said.

Huffington said his main concern was the safety risk to players on sloppy fields.

"We worry about people holding their footing, as well as people ripping up the damp field. With the baseball and softball fields, we worry about people slipping and sliding around. If these risks occur, we have to cancel games."

Huffington said maintenance staff prepares for the rainy season by using extra drying agents to keep the fields up and running. Additionally, aerification systems, nail drags and calcined clay drying agents are all used for field upkeep during rainy periods.

An underground drainage system helps keep MU's athletic fields dry, said Allen Frost, senior coordinator of grounds and maintenance for the university's athletic department.

Frost said the staff also keeps fields covered.

At the Stephens College Equestrian Center, wet pastures are keeping horses in the stables.

"We do the best we can," said Clay Stem, director of equestrian facilities. "But, if the pastures are extremely muddy, it can cause injury to the horses, so we just work them inside."

At Columbia's elementary schools, outdoor recess hasn't taken much of a hit.

Compared to January snowstorms, the rain hasn't been an inconvenience, said Ryan Link, assistant principal at Rock Bridge Elementary School.

As long as it is not raining during recess, students can still go outside to play. During winter storms, it takes days to clear off the blacktop.

“That was definitely more of an impact because we had to be inside probably a whole week after the blizzard in February,” Link said.

Construction firms build inclement weather into their schedules, but a long spell of rain can stall projects and limit paydays for workers.

“We have been putting off getting work done,” said Mike Tompkins, president and owner of Tompkins Construction.

The company is currently engaged in six projects, and four are delayed.

“Days go by with no work,” he said. 

Still, most of the projects should be finished on time.

“So far, I wouldn’t say that we are behind on anything,” Tompkins said, but he added that they might fall behind if the rain keeps up.

Dan Kliethermes, owner of Kliethermes Homes and Remodeling, was circumspect about the situation. He called the recent rainy period "part of life."

In fact, he said, looking back on his 35 years in construction, this has been a good year, with lawns and trees greening up nicely. 

From a management perspective, Tompkins said occasional rainy days provide a chance to catch up on paperwork.

But rain can have a psychological effect on homeowners, Tompkins said. A project doesn't looks its best when it's wet.

Overall, customers have been understanding, he said. He gets nervous when the phone rings, worrying that it might be a dissatisfied customer. But that has not happened, yet.

It’s Missouri, he said. They know it rains.

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