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Rain brings little relief

It’ll take lots more to end drought, meteorologists say.
Tuesday, September 2, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

KANSAS CITY — The rain that soaked much of Kansas and Missouri in recent days made farmers happy, but most agreed that it was unlikely to save crops damaged by the lengthy drought.

“The abundant amount of rainfall will provide short-term relief for the drought-stricken areas,” said Lisa Schmit, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill. “Unfortunately, it won’t end the drought. It would take months of abundant rainfall to recharge the subsoil layer.”

Raymond Wood, who owns and leases about 2,000 acres in mid-Missouri, said he spent about 1½ hours driving around his fields and checking rain gauges after showers soaked his fields from Thursday to Sunday.

“Excited probably isn’t a strong enough word,” said Wood of his reaction to the deluge. “More like ecstatic.”

His fields near Columbia got 4.7 inches over four days, while his land near Boonville got 5.4 inches during the same span. There had been only trace amounts of rain in the preceding eight weeks.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, Columbia had received 1.57 inches of rain for the day.

And what about his soybeans now?

“Oh, they look beautiful,” he said.

However, some farmers’ soybeans were too far gone to benefit from the soaking. And almost everyone agreed the corn crop was too damaged to benefit.

Plus, meteorologists said the rain came down so hard and fast that much of it failed to soak into the soil. Some of it turned into runoff that flooded creeks and rivers and left low-lying fields with standing water.

Between Thursday night and Monday morning, up to 10 inches of rain fell in the Kansas City area and in an area stretching from Emporia, Kan., to Chanute, Kan., to Joplin.

Most of Missouri and the eastern half of Kansas got 3 to 6 inches. However, less than an inch fell in parts of far western Kansas. Rainfall also was sparse in far northwestern and extreme south-central portions of Missouri.

Even with the soaking, some areas remained short of rain. Kansas City is still 5.41 inches below normal for the year. In Kansas, Topeka remained 2 inches below normal, as did several other cities.

Still, most farmers agreed the rains would help prepare the previously rock-hard fields for the fall planting of the winter wheat crop. And pasture lands in some areas already were turning greener, which was good news for cattle farmers who had been selling off livestock and feeding hay.

Dean Horton, 58, recorded about 8 inches of rain on his land in Lyon County. Before the weekend, it had been more than two months since he had received more than trace amounts of rainfall.

He had been feeding hay to his cattle and sold about 22 cows and 100 calves because of the drought, thinning his herd to about 250 head of cattle.

“It’s sure greened up just in the past couple days,” he said. “The cows are back out grazing. They act a little more content than they did.”

About two-thirds of his approximately 3,000 acres is grassland for cattle. The rest is planted with a combination of corn, soybeans and wheat. He said the rain was too late to help the soybeans.

Fred Detrixhe got about an inch of rain on his 2,000 acres of farmland near Ames. Before the rain, “it had been so depressing I didn’t even want to look at my crops,” he said. Detrixhe said it came too late to help most of the fall crops but it will help the yields from worsening.

“A rain a week would have helped a lot. Six weeks ago would have helped out tremendously,” said Detrixhe, the state director for the north-central area of the state for the Kansas Farmers Union, a lobbying group.

There was a bright spot. “It has helped a lot to get the ground ready for planting wheat,” he said. “Before it was bone dry, and you hate to put seed in the ground when it’s bone dry.”


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