Missouri farmers desperate for rain as future of crops hangs in the balance

According to the National Weather Service, the St. Louis area has recorded 1.31″ of rain so far this month, well below the average of 4.49″.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 6:20 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Early summer heat and a lack of rain is causing major problems for area farmers as they attempt to salvage this year’s crops.

A rainy spring forced most crop farmers to plant corn and soybeans one to two months behind schedule, leaving young plants to fend off the intense heat in June.

“Within a day, all of a sudden, the ground went from basically being too wet, to too dry,” said Franklin County farmer Terry Schwoeppe. “We couldn’t get a seed in the ground in some places. It’s been a little challenging, to say the least, this spring.”

Young plants with immature root systems can struggle to pull sub moisture from the ground during dry spells. As a result, the plant shields itself from the sunlight, hurting its ability to develop.

“When that plant pulls itself out, it is not taking in the sun’s rays to produce the nutrients it should, it’s basically shutting itself down,” he said. “That will impact the overall yield dramatically.”

Schwoeppe said his wheat crop is about ready to be harvested, while hay is being harvested daily to keep it from drying up in the sun. Corn and soybeans can be salvaged, but rain is needed--and soon.

“We’re gonna have to have timely rains in order to prolong it, if we don’t have any rain until August, this is not going to survive,” he said.

With input costs triple what they were last year, farmers across the county are operating on razor-thin margins. If they’re forced to use crop insurance in the event of a major loss, they will take a major financial hit.

“It’s mentally exhausting to always think about the ‘what if’ situations,” Schwoeppe said. “But that’s just the business.”

Experts in the farming industry say if a crop shortage is experienced, consumers could feel the effects following harvest this fall.