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Spring can be make or break on the farm

"It's not a job, it's a lifestyle."

Moniteau county farmer, Andy Clay, says while he loves his way of life,  he understands that weather could put it in jeopardy. 

"So the drier it is, our grass isn't growing, just like some people aren't mowing their yards. Will it's the same for the cattle mowing the pasture you know per say, there's no rain then the grass isn't growing."

Spring is a critical season for farmers in mid-missouri. How the weather behaves over the next few months will help decide what harvest looks like this fall. 

"Well if it's dry enough, the seed will sit there until it comes to rain."

Dr. Justin Chlapecka, Rice Extension Specialist with the University of Missouri, says adequate spring rainfall is critical for row crop farmers.

"But if we have enough moisture you know to where it's kind of imbibing some of that water, maybe germinates but just doesn't get enough to come out of the ground or make a good stand then that could be a complete loss and either a replant scenario, or just a crop failure."

Still, Clay says too much rain can also be a problem, maybe even a bigger one. 

"On a flooding it's much different because it creates actual land damage, just like 2019 where we had local levees busted due to the high water."

Chlapecka says flood waters can greatly impact the makeup of soil. 

"In layman's terms, when that soil gets flooded, those soil aggregates can burst and they'll become more broken up and they'll essentially become less good soil than, um not as good of soil as what it had originally been."

"Um, we realize the risks of farming along the Missouri river, but you know high risk is high reward too," says Clay.

"So we've got the good fertile soil, and if we can keep from flooding that between when we're planting the crop and when we want to harvest the crop, obviously you know we're going to come out with a good yield," says Chlapecka.

Not only can flood waters cause long-term damage to your land, Clay says the isolated nature of the destruction means it won't drive up demand enough to compensate for his losses.

"A drought is usually more of a widespread effect, so we see a market increase typically in a drought, where on the flood side of things, we typically do not."

Dr. Chlapecka says a successful year in the field starts two things; balanced rainfall, and avoiding a late plant.

"No two farmers are ever going to agree on the perfect rainfall schedule, you know, someone needs the rain this week, and then somebody needs a dry spell. It just varies by crop and depends on who you're talking to."

"We want adequate soil moisture, and warm soil temperatures to get started as soon as possible. Typically we want to be planting corn by april first. Not always does mother nature allow that. Things are aligning to be very dry for us this year, but unfortunately that's all out of our control so we'll do everything we can to set up for the best crop we possibly can."

Having farmed their land since the days of Lewis and Clark, the Clay family has seen their fair share of extreme spring weather. Seven generations later, they still say they wouldn't trade it for anything else.

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John Ross

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