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Dry weather pattern helps Missouri corn harvest, delays wheat

Bayer says glyphosate is a key tool for farmers as they try to control weeds and produce enough corn and other crops to help feed the world.
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

Drought conditions across portions of Missouri are having both a positive and negative effect on crops grown in the Show-Me State.

The lack of rain over much of Missouri has not harmed the state's corn crop and is enabling farmers to get heavy equipment into the fields for harvest.

Bob Garino is the Missouri statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based out of the USDA's satellite office in Columbia.

The dryness came too late to really have much of an impact on the corn yield," Garino said. "Soybeans are typically harvested a little bit later, but we're still predicting a fairly good yield for soybeans; I don't think in terms of (a) detriment (that) it's really been much of a detriment for that crop, either."

While benefiting corn and soybean growers, the current dry spell is not good for winter wheat, which is planted in the fall.

"The ground is pretty dry," Garino said, explaining that top soil moisture has four rating: very poor, poor, adequate and surplus. "Adequate is the best range for planting, because there is enough moisture there but it's not too wet to plant."

Garino says less than 40 percent of Missouri's wheat fields currently have adequate moisture for planting.

The latest U.S. drought monitor report shows more than 65 percent of the state as abnormally dry, with areas of moderate drought in central and southeast Missouri.

"After a mostly wet spring and (early) summer, the late part of summer and early fall has definitely dried out," said Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska. "We've seen drought and dryness slowly expanding into the state of Missouri in the last few weeks."

The long-range forecast remains uncertain, especially with the current El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean.

"The idea is that this dryness is going to be short-term," Fuchs said. "We probably are going to see situations where plenty of moisture returns to Missouri, (but) until it happens we're just basing this off of how past El Nino events have behaved."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.