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2002 Weather in Review

Fieldwork was off to a good start in early April as tillage and corn planting moved ahead of normal except in the southeast where wet fields slowed progress. Weather remained favorable for spring planting in most areas until late in the month when general rains delayed fieldwork, particularly in northeastern and southeastern counties. At the end of April, tillage operations were on schedule with 71 percent of the ground worked, while corn planting was a week ahead of normal with 65 percent in the ground. Pastures and the wheat crop were making good growth. Rainfall during April averaged 4.82 inches compared with the 30-year average of 4.68 inches.

Fieldwork proceeded at a moderate pace in early May, followed by about 2 weeks of heavy rains and flooding of lowlands which virtually stopped progress in many areas. The excessive moisture slowed row crop growth and re-planting was necessary in many corn and soybean fields where flooding occurred. Farmers were in the field in most areas during the last week of the month but planting progress for the major crops was a week or more behind normal. By the end of May about 89 percent of the corn, 44 percent of the soybeans, 46 percent of the sorghum and most of the cotton were planted. Farmers in the northeast and east-central districts suffered some of the largest delays from wet weather with about 30 percent of the corn and 70 percent of the soybeans still left to be planted at the end of the month. The wheat crop had nearly completed heading, similar to normal. May rainfall averaged 9.71 inches, more than double the 30-year average of 4.68 inches.

Early June weather was conducive to progress of soybean and sorghum plantings and hay harvesting as well as the beginning of the wheat harvest. Warmer temperatures helped the early planted row crops to recover from the wet, cool weather of May and the drier conditions enabled farmers to complete late plantings about on schedule by late June. The good moisture reserves from the previous month caused rapid growth of pastures. Moisture shortages began to develop during June, with over half of the State being rated as short or very short of moisture by the end of the month. The driest counties were concentrated in the northwest and north-central districts. Despite the dry conditions, the condition of row crops in most areas still averaged fair to good. The sunny weather was excellent for harvesting winter wheat, as farmers had combined 85 percent of the crop by late June, over a week ahead of average. Forty-six percent of the second crop of alfalfa and 77 percent of other hay were harvested by June 30, several days ahead of normal. Rainfall for the month averaged 2.95 inches, down from normal of 4.19 inches.

Row crops showed a continued, general decline in condition during July as warm weather and below-normal rainfall persisted. The northwest district remained the driest area, with many reports of corn in poor or very poor condition. About 93 percent of the corn was silking and 55 percent had reached the dough stage by the end of the month, similar to normal. Soybean development reached 62 percent blooming and 26 percent podding, 2 days behind normal. Seventy-seven percent of the cotton was setting bolls, over a week behind average. Pasture growth slowed markedly as moisture became short. Farmers in several northern and western counties began supplementing pasture feed with hay. July rainfall averaged 3.02 inches, 20 percent below the 3.76 inch normal.

Crops and pastures showed further deterioration during the hot, dry weather of the first half of August. Corn and pastures were affected the most, as both were rated at 55 percent in poor or very poor condition, while other crops were hurt to a lesser extent. Pastures continued to be poorest in the northwest and west-central districts. Late cuttings of hay were poor to non-existent in contrast to the good yields of early summer. As a result of the severe weather conditions, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage was released for grazing and haying for 17 counties in northwest Missouri. Stock water supplies were indicated as 36 percent short or very short, with stock ponds in the west-central district showing the lowest ratings at 53 percent short or very short. Widespread rains occurred around mid-month which were of substantial benefit to the late crops but corn was too far along to show significant improvement. By the end of August about 85 percent of the corn was denting and 47 percent was mature, as dry weather pushed the maturing process to a few days earlier than average and allowed harvesting to begin in the southern counties. Soybeans were 91 percent setting pods and 16 percent turning color, about equal to normal. Bolls were opening on 33 percent of the cotton, 2 days behind normal. August rainfall averaged 3.99 inches compared with the 30-year average of 3.73 inches.

The first half of September was warm and dry, hastening the maturing of all crops. With only minor interruptions from rain the corn harvest advanced rapidly, reaching 70 percent complete by late September, 10 days ahead of average. The soybean crop advanced to 91 percent turning color, 68 percent dropping leaves and 16 percent harvested, similar to normal. Bolls had opened on 79 percent of the cotton by the end of the month and 18 percent was harvested, about a week behind normal due to localized, heavy rain in the Bootheel. Pasture growth was nearly at a stand-still over most of Missouri. The poorest pastures were in the western third of the State with ratings of about 90 percent poor or very poor, resulting in more early feeding of hay than normal. Due to the continued drought, all counties were authorized emergency haying and grazing on CRP acres. Rainfall during September averaged 1.83 inches, sharply below the normal of 4.22 inches.

October harvesting continued to progress with occasional interruptions from rain. The corn harvest reached 95 percent complete by the end of the month, 10 days ahead of normal. Soybean harvesting advanced to 78 percent complete, 2 days behind average. Eighty-nine percent of the sorghum was harvested, a few days ahead of normal, while the cotton harvest was 12 days behind average at 65 percent complete. Pastures showed only minor recovery during October, with much of the State still rated as poor or very poor. An improvement in the moisture supply improved soil conditions for winter wheat as farmers seeded 76 percent of the expected acreage by the end of the month. October rainfall averaged 3.54 inches compared with the 30-year average of 3.37 inches.

Repeated showers in late October and early November interrupted the completion of harvesting for nearly a week but more favorable weather allowed progress to resume. Virtually all crops except cotton were harvested before the end of November, with the cotton harvest being completed in early December. November rainfall averaged 0.88 inch, sharply below the 3.15 inch normal. December precipitation averaged 2.24 inches compared with th 30-year average of 2.66 inches.

Precipitation for Missouri in 2002 averaged 40.43 inches, compared with 44.66 inches in 2001 and 40.67 inches for the 30-year average. Twenty counties received less than 30 inches of precipitation in 2002, concentrated primarily in the northwest district. Nodaway County received the least rainfall at 22.29 inches, followed by Worth, Gentry, Platte, Buchanan and Atchison, all under 25 inches. Wayne County measured the highest precipitation at 63.85 inches, followed by Butler, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Perry, Howell and Scott, all over 58 inches.