WHAT OTHERS SAY: Drought affects crops, puts stress on farmers

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | 5:43 p.m. CDT; updated 11:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Worried about your lawn this time of year? Think of the farmers.

By every account we have seen, pasture land and forage crops such as hay are under some of the greatest stress this summer in the Midland Empire.

Hayfields in Doniphan County, Kan., are producing one-third to half of the bales as normal. Extension agent Mindy Young tells the Atchison Globe, "Many farmers I've talked to are worried about winter feeding and are having to make a decision about purchasing more hay if the opportunity arises."

Brown County extension agent Matt Young tells the Hiawatha World there are visible differences in soil dryness between land planted in row crops, which provide some protection for the soil below, and pasture lands. "A lot of the pastures are looking really sad," he says.

Across the state line, the U.S. Drought Monitor service had this sobering assessment last week: 82 percent of top soil in Missouri is either short or very short of moisture, while nearly half of the pasture and rangeland was in poor or very poor condition.

The list of possible moisture-related problems for row crops is a long one. Drought puts crops like corn and soybeans — two big money-makers in these parts — under stress. The best you can say for crops under stress is their yields will be unpredictable.

Which brings us back to the weather. While Saturday's rains in the region were welcome, they hardly are enough to lift us out of the moderate drought the experts say we are experiencing. And few with knowledge in these matters will venture a guess at when we'll next see sustained moisture.

MU crop specialist Bill Wiebold thinks some corn and soybean farmers may have to do without much if any crop this year. "Obviously that affects the farmers, but I think the people that live in those communities and the non-farm people should understand the farmers are under a lot of stress," he said.

We commend those agriculture agents and farmers who are using their wits and every planning tool at their disposal to mitigate the impact of this unusually dry weather. At the same time, we echo the sentiment: It's not just plants that suffer when drought takes hold.

Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Distributed by the Associated Press. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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