Monday's rain not enough to make up for dry June

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Local farmers are hoping a wet July can heal ailing crops.

Cape Girardeau and surrounding areas received only 1.54 inches of rain last month. The average rainfall for June is 3.81 inches.

Monday's rainfall totaled 0.14 inches in Cape Girardeau and 1.5 inches in Dexter and New Madrid.

It will help, say experts, but the wet weather must continue to keep crops healthy. "That's about enough to last us until tomorrow," said Gerald Bryan of the University of Missouri Extension office.

Bryan said because of a particularly wet May, crops did not develop large root systems and consequently require more water now. This year's corn crop, for example, requires three-tenths to four-tenths of an inch of water per day, he said.

"All that rain is kind of a two-edged sword. It helped us then, but it created some problems as well," he said. "Heavy rainfall creates short root systems. Plants didn't have to hunt nutrients and hunt water earlier in the year, so their roots didn't grow outward very far. Now because of that they tend to get into drought stress very quickly."

Bryan said the heat has also been a problem. "Some of these days the temperature gets up to 95 degrees and the heat index can get up above 100. When the weather is uncomfortable for us, we don't think plants are affected the same way, but they are," he said.

Bryan added that hot, dry conditions are bad for corn pollination.

Gary Branum, who farms 1,600 acres of rice in New Madrid County, said the rain has been a godsend. "I've been in the coffee shops talking to the farmers, and I can say the rain has been very well received," he said. "Last week people were out laying poly-pipe just trying to get better irrigation. This rain will give us a two- or three-day breather. I'd call it a million-dollar rain."

Branum said his rice crop requires a consistent level of 2 to 4 inches of water. "Today we can shut off those pumps for a while," he said of his irrigation system.

Glen Birk of Jackson, who farms corn, soybeans and wheat in addition to raising cattle, said the rain Monday was nice but must continue. "What we got today was good and it all soaked into the ground, but we need a lot more," he said. "What happens from here on out is what will make the tremendous difference."

Meteorological technician Dave Purdy at the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., said the area can expect more wet weather.

"We're getting the moist southwesterly air from the gulf right now, and that will continue here for a while," he said. "It's actually pretty typical for this time of year."

Purdy said the likelihood of rain today and Wednesday is 50 percent with thunderstorms likely each day.

335-6611, extension 245

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