Rare cold fronts make a degree of difference

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The heat index is the weather term normally discussed during July in Southeast Missouri. But a cold front that moved into the area from the north last weekend has caused unseasonably cold and dry conditions.

An unusually high number of cold fronts have been moving into the area, said Kelly Hooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky.

"They typically don't travel this far south in July," he said. "It's just rare."

Even with an unusually large number of cold fronts affecting July weather, the month's average temperature is only a degree below normal, Hooper said.

Still, according to weather.com, Cape Girardeau had a high of 67 degrees on Sunday, while the average temperature is 88 degrees for July 25. The low of 58 degrees on Monday was slightly warmer than the record low of 55 degrees set in 1962.

The cool weather has provided farmers with a break from the usual sweat-inducing July and has also helped their crops, according to the Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service.

Corn is developing eight days ahead of last year, as 95 percent of the corn is silked, or pollinated, and 52 percent has reached the dough stage, where the kernels are half developed.

The cooler temperatures help crop production two ways, said Gerald Bryan, agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension office in Jackson.

First, cooler temperatures are much more favorable for pollination, which leads to higher yields. However, most corn in the area is past the pollination stage, Bryan said.

The cooler temperatures also help reduce water loss through evaporation in the crop. Bryan said a typical corn crop will use 2 inches of moisture a week. With below normal rainfall for the summer, the cooler temperatures are helping the crops stay healthy.

"It looks good," Bryan said. "But if we get some hot weather and don't get rains moving in, the soil will lose a lot of moisture."

Soybeans also are blooming ahead of normal and are a week ahead of last year. In addition, 42 percent of sorghum has "headed," the final stage of development, two days ahead of last year.

The cotton crop is five days ahead of last year, with 70 percent of the crop setting bolls.

Bryan said there are no negative effects on crops due to the cool temperatures, adding that it also benefits livestock.

While cool temperatures would continue to help area crops grow and flourish, Hooper said the weather is already beginning to change.

"We will warm up with every passing day, beginning today," he said.

jwachter@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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