COLUMBIA — An unseasonably dry May is worrying Missouri farmers.
The 1.16 inches of rain so far in May puts Columbia 2.73 inches short of the average of 3.89 inches through Friday.
Bill Wiebold, an agronomist with MU Extension, said the dry spell comes as farmers have planted their crops and need moisture to get the growing season off to a good start.
Higher evaporation rates driven by hotter temperatures and low humidity are contributing to low moisture levels in the soil, said Tim Reinbott, superintendent at MU’s Bradford Research and Extension Center.
"It’s unusual to have such a high demand for water this early," Wiebold said on Wednesday. "The point I want to make is, it’s serious and will get more serious as time goes on."
Showers and storms brought temporary relief to areas west of Columbia on Friday morning with localized rainfall totals of 2 inches or more, but only trace amounts fell in the Columbia area, according to Doppler radar.
Reinbott said Friday morning's scant rainfall didn't make a difference overall.
Record highs in the 90s forecast for Saturday and Sunday won't help.
The National Weather Service was forecasting chances of rain Monday and during the middle of next week. "We don’t need scattered showers. What we need is a good general rain," Reinbott said.
Light rains after farmers plant in dry soil can provide enough water for seeds to sprout, Reinbott said, but if the moisture evaporates too quickly after germination the young plants will die.
The latest weekly drought monitor map, issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, showed "abnormally dry" conditions — the least severe level of drought — expanding from southeast Missouri toward the central part of the state.
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