July 5, 2012

Do or Die Time for Local Crops in Need of Rain

Scattered rain across parts of southern Scotland County brought some much needed temporary relief over the weekend, but left residents in the north thirsting for more precipitation as the drought is entering the devastating stages for farmers.

Rain reports of between 1.5 to 2 inches of precipitation came in from the Bible Grove and Rutledge areas while Memphis and the surrounding areas measured only .1 to .2 inches of rain on Saturday and Sunday.

"I think we have lost one-third of the yield potential on the corn," said Jardin Fuller of J & J Ag in Scotland County whose farm wasn't one of the fortunate ones to receive more than just a sprinkle of rain during the weekend storms. "Give it another week and I think that loss could be doubled."

With a normal output of 160 bushels an acre, by Fuller's estimates, many farmers have seen their production cut to 120 bushels by the drought. At $6 a bushel corn, the drought may have already cost farmers $360 an acre. For a producer with 500 acres, no rain has meant a loss of $180,000 in income, with the potential for even more loss.

The USDA Missouri crop report issued July 2nd revealed high temperatures and little to no precipitation across most of the state took its toll on crops last week as all crops declined in condition. Corn condition rated poor to very poor increased 22 points to 48 percent while soybeans rated poor to very poor increased 14 points to 49 percent.

Topsoil moisture declined to its lowest point this year at 71 percent very short, 26 percent short, and 3 percent adequate. The 5 year average topsoil moisture condition is 4 percent very short, 16 percent short, 59 percent adequate, and 21 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture also declined to 58 percent very short, 35 percent short, and 7 percent adequate.

According to William Wiebold, professor of plant sciences in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, this year's corn needs rain and needs it soon. He indicated the next couple weeks are critical for corn pollination, because silk growth and tassel pollen-shed must be in sync to create corn kernels. That coordination relies on water.

"Silks are at least 99 percent water, and they use it as the driving force to elongate from inside the husk until they emerge outside the husks, or about 10 inches," said Wiebold. "If the pollen sheds from the tassel and the silks aren't there, no kernels are produced."



Silk growth is only half of the critical pollination process. If the pollen does reach the silk, a tube created by the pollen grain must be able to grow down the silk to where the kernel will be, according to Wiebold. He added that there has to be enough water to keep the corn silk wet enough for the pollen tube to grow through its entire length to reach the ear.

"This coordination process, colloquially called nick, is so important that if dry, hot conditions prevent it, you could see a 30-40 percent yield loss," Wiebold said.

The professor noted that a typical ear will have 12 to 14 rows, each with 35 to 40 potential kernels, he said. Lose just three kernels per row and that's a substantial yield loss.

The lack of rain is having other negative effects on corn. Normally, corn tasseling occurs when plants are 7, maybe 8 feet tall, according to Wiebold. Water pushes that growth.

"There are reports coming from throughout the state that corn is tasseling at 5 1/2 to 6 feet tall," Wiebold said. "That's a couple of feet shorter than normal, and it's because there's wasn't enough water to increase plant cell size."

Corn leaf blades are coming in smaller for the same reason. All these stresses put this season's corn yield in question.

"Probably the next two weeks will really determine what our yield will be," Wiebold said. "Some places that had rain, like northwest Missouri, will see less yield loss. Places like St. Charles County and along the rivers, which have deeper soils with good water-holding capacity, should also experience less yield loss."

Places that have seen little rain, have claypan soils or have compacted soils will experience large yield losses if rain doesn't come soon. A heavy yield hit in the Corn Belt could send ripples through the futures market.

"The Chicago futures market will start calling around to the states to see what the weather is like," Wiebold said. "It's really important and it can drive the market price that farmers will receive."

Less corn produced would mean higher prices, putting pressure on livestock producers who feed corn. At the end of this food chain, consumers could see sticker shock for meat and dairy products.

While the corn situation is critical, soybeans are nearing the do or die point as well.

"Give it another week or 10 days and I figure we could loss 20 bushels an acre on the soybeans," Fuller stated.

With soybean prices at $14 a bushel, the potential loss would be around $280 an acre. That same farmer with 500 acres of beans, would be looking at a loss of $140,000.

"I would say no rain in the next two weeks and the guy with 1,000 acres will be looking at loses of half a million dollars or more," Fuller said.

The problem dates back to a particularly arid spring according to University of Missouri climatologist Pat Guinan with the MU Extension commercial agriculture program. Only 4 inches of rain was recorded across most of Missouri in May and June. Normal rainfall is 10 inches.

"So we have a 6-inch moisture deficit going into what are normally the hottest and drier months of summer," said Guinan.

In addition to the rain shortage, January-to-June temperatures show the warmest average on record in 118 years. The state continues to set heat records: Third warmest winter, warmest March and warmest spring.

"It's a unique growing season," Guinan said. "High heat and lack of rain indicate possible prolonged drought."

That brings back memories of some of the state's tougher times.

"It's beginning to look a lot like 1988," said Wiebold.

Guinan noted that 1988 was one of the three worst droughts of the last century. That includes the mid-1950s and the dust bowl days of the 1930s.

"We're not there yet," Guinan says. "But you do have to go back to 1988 to find a drier May and June than we've had this year. Hot, dry weather in the spring isn't a good start."

Normally, May and June are the wettest months of the year in Missouri.

"This year, we're short on soil moisture. There's no reserve in the top 12 inches and subsoil is not much better," he says. Soil moisture supports crop growth during hot months, supplemented by normal rainfall."

In many parts of Missouri, a foot of soil is all there is. Below the topsoil lies claypan or rock. Iowa and Illinois cornfields tend to have deeper soils with more water reserves. That can make a difference in plant survival, according to Guinan.

A National Weather Service outlook for July issued at the end of June shows below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures for the month ahead. Usually, July is the hottest month of the year.

A drought has many facets, Guinan noted. There is the lack of precipitation. That is combined this year with high temperatures, an unusual number of sunny days and low relative humidity. Humidity levels run 20 to 30 percent by midafternoon, day in and day out.

"We've already had temperatures in triple digits, most unusual for June," he said. "Strong winds and low humidity boost water evaporation, creating plant stress."

The buildup of solar energy on the soil intensifies drought effects, according to Guinan. Sunshine boosts evapotranspiration, the water use by plants combined with evaporation from soil surfaces.

Plant transpiration pulls moisture out of the soil. Evaporation removes water from the surface, including ponds and lakes.

The Bootheel remains the driest part of the state, which now rates as extreme drought on the National Drought Monitor. Most of the rest of the state ranks as moderate drought.

"Some areas of northwestern and western Missouri received 'million-dollar rains' in late June to keep crops growing," said Guinan.

Wiebold, who oversees crop variety test plots across the state, looked at 1988 yield reports. "Then we had lots of corn that made only 10 bushels per acre," he says.

Regional extension agronomists report some cornfields with "rootless corn syndrome." Lack of soil moisture when corn was planted hurt growth of strong roots. Brace roots, which emerge at the soil surface level, failed to extend into dry soils.

Recently, strong winds blew over cornstalks in northeastern Missouri. "That corn is dead," Wiebold says.

Short-term forecasts into early July show daily temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. "There is a dire need for moisture," Guinan adds. "June ranks sixth driest on record."

Guinan encourages public reports on local conditions to the Drought Monitor participation page. The Drought Monitor is a source used by USDA in assessing drought disasters. Authors of the Drought Monitor pay attention to public reports, Guinan says.

Anyone can contribute at http://droughtreporter.unl.edu.

The 2012 drought has become a widespread concern and now covers much of the Corn Belt.

Rural Hospital are a Lifeline

by U.S. Congressman Sam Graves

Rural hospitals are a literal lifeline for tens of millions of people across this country. In communities that don’t have enough primary care doctors or health facilities, rural hospitals provide a critical, lifesaving service that otherwise would not be here for us.

Unfortunately, about 80 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. What’s worse, one third of all rural hospitals in the U.S. could close in the next few years. That’s 12 million Americans at risk of losing access to the closest emergency room. A devastating number, and something we can’t allow to continue in rural America.

Cuts to hospital payments have worsened the problem, and as populations decrease in rural communities, so-called “medical desserts” are popping up across rural America. It leaves people living on farms or in small towns dangerously vulnerable to medical emergency – particularly older Americans.

This week, I am joining with my colleague from Iowa, Dave Loebsack, to introduce the Save Rural Hospitals Act. This bipartisan bill looks to reverse the trend of rural hospital closures, in part by eliminating unrealistic federal regulations like the “96 hour rule,” which forces rural hospitals to move a patient within 96 hours in order to get reimbursed by Medicare.

The average rural hospital creates 195 jobs and generates $8.4 million in annual payroll. But more than that, these facilities make communities livable, ensuring a doctor isn’t far away when a medical emergency strikes.

This bill shines a light on the rural health crisis in Missouri and across the country. If we accept this reality – and neglect this much needed conversation – rural hospitals in Missouri will continue to close. This leaves thousands without access to health care, putting lives in jeopardy and affecting every family in Middle America. That’s simply not acceptable.

City Looking to Crack Down on Traffic Violations

Memphis residents are being reminded to monitor posted speed limits. Photo by Maddy Zahn.

With an increasing number of citizens voicing complaints regarding traffic concerns, the Memphis City Council recently agreed to move forward with an increased police presence while also encouraging a lower tolerance level for infractions.

Complaints have centered around speeding, stop sign adherence and non-traditional vehicle usage such as ATVs and golf carts.

“The City of Memphis has not written a lot of traffic tickets, but unfortunately that appears like it is going to have to change,” said Alderman Chris Feeney. “This isn’t about revenue, or being punitive, it is about public safety.”

Police Chief Bill Holland indicated officers have tried to use warnings and have allowed some leeway when dealing with speed enforcement.

Under the new council directive, that tolerance level will be reduced.

“In the past, we may have just flashed our lights at you, or offered a warning when a car was going a little too fast,” said Holland. “Now those cars going 30 in a 20 will likely be looking at a ticket.”

Holland stated the enforcement efforts have been ongoing, with officers performing additional traffic patrols. In an effort to enhance those efforts, a part-time officer has been added to the police force. Justin Allen from Clark County will be joining the MPD, and Holland indicated his initial responsibilities will focus on traffic control. The department has been shorthanded with the departure of officer Jason Ketchum, and Holland said efforts will continue to replace that full-time officer as well.

The council also has discussed the possibility of adding a radar camera system that could be deployed by the department in trouble areas to help deter speeding and produce data on traffic volume and speed habits of motorists.

“We are not turning a deaf ear to citizen complaints,” said Holland. “When we become aware of trouble spots, we increase our presence there, but it takes being in the right spot at exactly the right time to catch the people responsible for the complaints.”

Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit within the city limits is 25 mph. ATV’s, golf carts or utility vehicles are allowed on public streets only by special permit, available at city hall. They may only be driven by licensed drivers and are not to exceed 30 mph regardless if the posted speed limit is higher.

Holland noted that enforcement efforts are difficult with a small force, that typically only has one officer on duty, adding that police presence performing traffic patrol normally turns into a simple deterrent rather quickly as motorists become aware of the law enforcement presence and temporarily reduce speeds or choose alternate routes.

While automated traffic controls such as radar cameras and stop sign video surveillance are not particularly popular with the public, the city council expressed a willingness to at least consider such measures.

“I’m certain I have exceeded a posted speed limit at some time or other,” said Alderman Feeney. “In doing so I could be putting the public safety at risk. So I have a choice, I can either slow down and monitor my speed better, or I can risk paying a ticket.”

The council is hoping the community chooses the first option, but is anticipating it will take more of the later for the initiative to hit home and start to sink in for motorists.

Area Students Named to MU Dean’s List

Several area students were named to the University of Missouri spring semester 2017 dean’s list.

Kathryn Mary Howard of Memphis has been named to honor roll. Howard is a senior student.

Samantha Rachel Tobler, a senior, was named to the 2017 dean’s list for the spring semester.

Jaclyn Wiggins, a junior student in the arts and science school, was named to the honor roll as well.

More Than $988 Million in Unclaimed Property Waiting to be Returned  Statewide

JEFFERSON CITY – State Treasurer Eric Schmitt on June 15th announced the start of an annual effort to return Unclaimed Property to Missourians by publishing the names of owners in Missouri newspapers. Starting June 16, the names of more than 145,000 individuals, families, small businesses, and non-profits with Unclaimed Property will be printed in more than 100 publications across the state.

“Our team works hard every single day to financially empower Missourians by returning the money they are rightfully owed,” Schmitt said. “One in ten Missourians have Unclaimed Property, and this public awareness initiative is one of the many creative ways we work to get abandoned money back to its rightful owners. I encourage all Missourians to visit ShowMeMoney.com to see if they or someone they know has money waiting to be claimed free of charge.”

Missouri law requires these notices be published annually in order to list the names of individuals whose Unclaimed Property valued at $50 or more has been turned over to the State Treasurer’s Office in the past year.

Individuals, families, small businesses, and others can check to see if they have Unclaimed Property on ShowMeMoney.com. They can also sign up for email notifications when new assets come in matching their information and send notifications to family and friends to let them know about money being held in their name.

Treasurer Schmitt has returned more than $13.5 million to over 50,000 account holders since taking office in January. The average Unclaimed Property return is around $300.

Fireworks Season Will Run June 20th – July 10th in City of Memphis

As the Independence Day holiday approaches, the Memphis Police Department is reminding city residents of ordinances related to the discharge of fireworks in city limits.

Fireworks may be discharged from June 20 – July 10th from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. That coincides with the permitted sales period.

Fireworks are prohibited on public property, including parks and the municipal lakes. It is unlawful for any person to discharge any fireworks within the city limits of Memphis, except upon their own property or upon property whose owner has given his/her consent. It is also illegal to recklessly discharge fireworks in such a manner that the explosion of the same will be likely to endanger or cause injury or damage to any person or property within the city limits of Memphis.

Any person violating any of the provisions of the city’s fireworks ordinance shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine not exceeding $500 or by imprisonment in the City or County Jail not exceeding ninety 90 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment; provided, that in any case wherein the penalty for an offense is fixed by a Statute of the State, the statutory penalty, and no other, shall be imposed for such offense.

Memphis Man Facing Charges Following Motorcycle Crash

A Memphis man is facing numerous charges following a motorcycle crash on Route MM Tuesday evening.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the accident occurred at 7:30 p.m. on June 13th, a half mile south of the Highway 136  intersection, just south of Memphis.

Russell B Matthew, 34, was southbound on Route MM on a 1993 Suzuki 500 motorcycle when the vehicle ran off the right side of the roadway and overturned. Matthew sustained moderate injuries in the crash. He was transported via patrol car to Scotland County Hospital.

Matthew was ticketed for driving while intoxicated, no valid license, leaving the scene of an accident, child endangerment, failure to wear approved headgear and failure to drive on right half of the roadway.

The Patrol was assisted at the scene by the Memphis Police Department and the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office.

Large Hail Storm Pounds Scotland County

Chrissy Myers put the hail to the ruler test, topping out at two inches in diameter.

Some brief power outages and several downed tree limbs  were all that law enforcement had to report following Saturday’s severe weather that hit northeast Missouri, but the real damage reports started rolling in Monday at local insurance offices.

The National Weather Service reported “Severe thunderstorms tracked across eastern Iowa, northeast Missouri, and north central Illinois Saturday afternoon and evening. Large hail, torrential rain, and damaging winds up to 65 mph were reported.  Very large hail fell in Muscatine, IA and Antioch, MO, where golf ball and baseball size hail was reported respectively.”

The heavy rains and high winds did minimal damage in Scotland County, but hail ranging in size from golf ball to as big as baseballs, was reported, leading to hundreds of claims for hail damage to vehicles, homes and businesses.

Local insurance agents and auto body repair specialists indicated it is too early to offer a  solid estimate for storm damages, but several speculated that with anywhere from 300 to 500 damaged vehicles and a smaller number of hail damaged homes and businesses, the total could easily eclipse $1 million.

At approximately 7:15 p.m. Saturday evening, the frozen precipitation hit the City of Memphis. Trained storm spotters reported hail up to two-inches in diameter, with reports and photos of larger bundles of ice making their rounds via social media.

Kris Lister collected this assortment of hail stones at his Memphis residence on Mi-Lor Street.

The storm continued east, with similar damage reports out of Kahoka and Clark County around 7:45 p.m.

More than 2 inches of rain was reported during the storm, with the hail dissipating as the storm left Missouri, but still resulting in significant rainfall in southeast Iowa and eastern Illinois.

Fundraisers Planned for Future Home of Pheasant Airplane

A series of fundraisers have been planned for a local effort to construct a permanent home for the historic Pheasant Airplane. Three separate summer events have been planned by the committee to help secure funds to construct a building on the south end of the east side of the Memphis city square.

Volunteers will be providing the lunch services during the Keith family auction to be held July 1st.

A quilt made by the late Zelda Keith, and donated by her family to the committee, will be raffled off later this summer. Tickets are on sale now for the benefit quilt auction, with the winner to be drawn on Saturday of the 2017 Scotland County Antique Fair.

Tickets will be available from committee members. Secretary Peggy Brown said the committee plans to display the quilt at various area businesses leading up to the raffle, with tickets available at those locations as well.

The group is also planning to host a ham & bean supper in October.

Proceeds from all three events will go into the construction fund. Donations may be mailed to the Scotland County Historical Society – Pheasant Airplane, at PO Box 263, Memphis, MO 63555.

Gorin Man Killed in One-Vehicle Crash in Clark County

A Gorin man was killed and two passengers in his vehicle were injured just after midnight on Sunday morning in a crash in rural Clark County.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, William C. See, 24, was westbound in a 2013 Ford F250 truck on Route D two miles west of Neeper, when the vehicle became airborne at the crest of a hill. The truck ran off the right side of the roadway, overcorrected, and then ran off the left side of the roadway before overturning multiple times. See was ejected from the vehicle. He was pronounced deceased at the scene by Clark County Coroner Ed Wilson.

Two passengers in the truck were injured. Reid R. Harris, 22, of Muscatine, IA sustained serious injuries. He was transported by Clark County Ambulance to Keokuk Area Hospital in Keokuk, IA. Luke A. Sedore, 19 of Alexandria, sustained minor injuries and was treated at the scene.

The Patrol was assisted at the scene by the Clark County Sheriff’s office, Clark County first responders and the ambulance service.

Memphis Red Hats Meet at Keith’s Cafe

The Memphis Red Hats met on Wednesday, June 7th at Keith’s Café.  Hostess Barb Creath gave a reading about veterans followed by funny experiences of people.

Those attending were Vera Monroe, Nancy Eaves, Jean Walker, Shirley Ruth, Marlene Cowell, JoAnn Rood, Nelda Billups, Benjie Briggs, Pat Wiggins, Barb Creath, Marcine Evans and guest, Conner Wiggins.

Marlene Cowell will be the July Hostess.  The meeting will be on July 5th at 5:00 p.m. at the Catfish Place in Arbela.

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