AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

Linda Geist
Senior Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group

February 8, 2018

Most of Missouri remains in drought

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Most of Missouri remains in a drought, according to a map released Feb. 8 by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

The drought affects livestock farmers facing dwindling hay reserves. Row crop farmers are eyeing the situation with caution as planting season nears.

East-central, southeastern and south-central Missouri face the largest water deficits in the state, said University of Missouri Extension climatologist Pat Guinan. Smaller pockets of long-term dryness exist over portions of northern Missouri, he said.

But that could change. "We're still in winter and there is time for notable improvement," Guinan said. "Climatologically, southeast Missouri has the best chance for drought recovery during the cold season."

While concerning, things could be worse. In 1953-54 there were 16 consecutive months of below-normal precipitation, he said. Five years ago, Missouri experienced a severe hydrological drought that carried over from the historic drought of 2012. Conditions improved in February and March 2013, when a much wetter weather pattern emerged. A cool, wet spring followed.

"That being said, drought impacts are currently ongoing," he said.

For Missouri, September 2017-January 2018 ranks as the driest September to January period in more than 40 years, Guinan said. The statewide average precipitation for the period was 8.3 inches-slightly more than half the normal of 15.9 inches.

For the fifth year in a row, Missouri experienced below-normal precipitation in January. Statewide, precipitation for November-December 2017 averaged 1.91 inches, or 30 percent of normal.

For some locations, the dry spell began as early as June 2017. By the end of the year, drought affected much of the state, with parts showing a rainfall deficit of a foot or more, Guinan said.

Guinan encourages Missourians to participate in the drought assessment process and submit information to the Drought Mitigation Center's Drought Impact Reporter at For more information on how to submit information, go to The center's Drought Monitor Map collects data from numerous agencies.

MU Extension specialists from east-central, southeastern and south-central Missouri reported drought impacts to Guinan in the fall. These impacts persist.

They reported failures of fall-sown crops, including wheat, to germinate. Annuals such as oats and turnips did not produce well, and new grass and legume seedlings were reported in poor condition.

Dry conditions also led to large numbers of brush and grass fires, says MU Extension natural resources engineer Frank Wideman, whose office is in Perryville, 80 miles south of St. Louis. Perry County was one of several counties in the state to issue burn bans.

Livestock owners in drought-stricken areas continue to face concerns about dwindling hay supplies before spring grasses appear. "Producers who need hay and don't yet have it tied down are looking out of the area and are probably going to have to pay higher than normal prices," said Ted Probert, MU Extension dairy specialist in Wright County in southwestern Missouri.

Because of dry conditions, farmers started feeding hay earlier in the season than normal, Probert said. "Much of the hay put up last spring was cut late and quality is not good." Feeding low-quality hay for longer than normal may adversely affect the condition of animals as they come out of winter, he said. "Also, pastures have been grazed pretty short on a lot of farms. Spring grass may be later than normal."

Winter annuals and perennials emerged but lacked good growth going into the winter. Their vigor remains yet to be seen, said Probert. He works with dairy producers in southwestern Missouri, where the faucet dried up after growers planted forage grasses and legumes.

Anthony Ohmes, agronom

Source: Pat Guinan, 573-882-5908

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