How Dry We Are: Missouri Ag Experts Run the Numbers for Their State

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According to a warning published by the University of Missouri, the drought may be "over" in Missouri, but the effects linger, especially when it comes to the prospects for the 2007 hay crop.

Craig Roberts, a professor of agronomy in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri, warned that the quantity of this year's hay crop will be down 50 percent to 75 percent from normal, but the nutritional value will be good.

On May 1, Missouri hay stocks were 625,000 tons. This is down 28 percent from a year ago and 71 percent below May 1, 2005. Hay stocks are at their lowest level since 1984, when it had dropped to 328,000 tons.

"Last year, we had the drought, which affected both the quantity and the quality of the hay," Roberts said. "This year, we had a late freeze, which mainly affects the yield. Overall, we will be down, but the drought last year was far worse."

Rainfall varied greatly across Missouri in May with portions of the northwest and west central areas of the state receiving seven to eleven inches of rain while the Bootheel in Southeast Missouri received only two to three inches of rain.

Significant irrigation is underway in some areas. In dry land areas with no irrigation, corn leaves are rolling, an indicator of stress, especially in sandy soils, according to Pat Guinan, University of Missouri climatologist with the Extension Commercial Agriculture Program.

Also from Missouri, Scott Brown, research assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and program director of livestock and dairy with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) has issued a forecast for milk prices to rise $1.00 to $1.50 per gallon across the USA. (The national average is $3.10, according to Brown.) However, the rise in dairy prices is linked to a global demand for US dairy products, not to drought conditions or hay prices/quality/shortages, according to Brown.