Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”

Last month was the fifth wettest June on record, and that has helped ease drought conditions across Kansas.

Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says June was a critical month, because in parts of Kansas it's normally the wettest month. A lack of June rain would have meant Kansas missed a good chance to reduce the drought.

July is also a wet month in some areas, and Knapp says possible cooler weather this month could help further reduce the drought.

Mike Rodriquez / Flickr User

Despite recent storms, parts of Missouri and all of Kansas are still experiencing some level of drought. What creates these extreme conditions, and how much rain does it take to bring us back to normal?

On Wednesday's Central Standard, we talk with Brian Fuchs, who explains the mechanics of a drought.


  • Brian Fuchs​, Climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Drought is re-shaping the beef map and raising the price of steak. Ranchers are moving herds from California to Colorado and from Texas to Nebraska seeking refuge from dry weather. And cattle producers in the Midwest are making the most of it.

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Despite recent heavy rains across the state of Kansas, officials say the precipitation is likely not enough to end the drought.

Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says Kansas has seen almost double what would be a normal amount of rain for the first part of June. But she says the rains won’t be enough to bring conditions back to normal, as the first five months of the year were very dry.

Crazybananas / Flickr.com - CC

A hot, dry spring is sending mixed signals to Kansas climatologists trying to predict what kind of summer the Central Plains will have.

At the beginning of May, temperatures in Wichita, Kan., topped 100 degrees three times. Combine that with a lack of rain to the southwest, and crops across the state are starting to show signs of stress.

Kansas Poetry / Flickr-CC

You've heard about how farmers in western Kansas have faced drought problems, but you might not know that the drought can affect the water supply here in Kansas City.

In the second part of Tuesday's Up to Date, we take a look at the drought's far-reaching effects and what actions could fix the problem.


  • Josh Swatty, vice president of the Land Institute
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Nancy Friesen sat nervously at the controls of a giant John Deere combine that made the corn stalks look like match sticks. It was her second day in the driver’s seat of the giant machine and she normally works in the garden, not the field. But during harvest time, everyone in the family pitches in.

One year after the worst drought in decades, farm families all over the Midwest are preparing to bring in a record-breaking corn crop. While there’s some uncertainty in the air thanks to falling corn prices, this is a time of year when farm families focus on the task at hand.

Drought conditions are again plaguing the northern half of Missouri, according to the latest U.S. drought monitor report.

Right now, a large portion of north central Missouri is experiencing severe drought, with most of the rest of northern Missouri is in moderate drought. 

Anthony Artusa is with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center at the University of Maryland.

Labor Day Promises Heat Relief In Kansas City Metro

Aug 30, 2013

Metro Kansas City is baking in what may turn out to be the hottest day of the calendar year, August 30.

That could be a hundred degrees or higher.

Spotty rain is expected before the holiday weekend is half way through.

Downtown is 6.25 inches below the norm for the year, Olathe by more than 3.5.

Data shows even more dehydration if one considers the period June through August with Olathe scoring a mere  7.4 inches. That amounts to a summertime deficit of 6.02 inches.

Relief is anticipated within a matter of days.

Hot weather has been greeting visitors to this year’s Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., one of the country’s largest agriculture trade shows. It’s a fitting reminder of a rough year for farmers.

Hot weather is no surprise during the late-August exhibition of all things farming. But the recent dry spell in the Midwest is causing some worries.

Pam Johnson, a Northern Iowa farmer who is president of the National Corn Growers association says that's been the number one concern she's heard from show visitors.

Harvest Public Media

Severe drought has been gripping much of Kansas, but in some parts of the state that grip has been easing; much of central and eastern Kansas is back to normal. As recently as three months ago, around 97 percent of the state was experiencing drought.

Mary Knapp with Kansas State University calls the turnaround “exceptional.”

“In central and southeastern Kansas we’ve actually gone from drought to deluge," she says. "We’ve got a number of locations that have seen incredible amounts of rain in the last three weeks.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

If you’ve experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.

Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country’s beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds – some even liquidated all their cattle – which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.

Dry conditions this summer could cause the herd to dwindle even further. That means beef prices may continue on a steady climb, just in time for grilling season.

The motorized growl from an idling John Deere tractor drowned out the sounds of nature on a recent morning on Chris Webber’s central Missouri family farm.

As he checked the 40 acres of muddy field he wanted to plant that day, Webber worried about getting more rain, even as he worried about the lack of it.

“The drought is over at the moment,” he said, “but in Missouri, we tend to say that in 10 days or two weeks, we can be in a drought again. That’s how fast it can get back to dry.”

Should You Be Talking To Your Plants?

Apr 30, 2013
Hilary Stohs-Krause / Harvest Public Media

Ever know someone who talks to plants?

Maybe it was your offbeat neighbor cooing at his gardenias; maybe your grandmother analyzed baseball with her cucumbers. It seems a bit silly, but researchers say farmers should maybe take notice.

Crazybananas / Flickr.com - CC

Recent snowfalls brought much needed moisture to our region.  Even so, the drought of last year has not been broken.  Should it continue for months ... or even years ... what are the potential long-term effects?

Pumped Up Pumpkin Prices

Oct 16, 2012

Many shoppers will pay higher prices for pumpkins this fall as this summer’s drought continues to take its toll on local growers.

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

When we last spoke with dairy farmer Eric Neill, he was in the middle of trying to get his dairy cows through this summer's drought.

Missouri Dept. of Public Safety

Missouri’s drought conditions have increased the threat of wildfires across the state. 


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will halt some water releases from three Kansas reservoirs next month. 

Despite headlines about the crushing drought that's afflicting much of the country's prime agricultural land, the USDA isn't expecting any dramatic increases in the price of food this year or next.

A fierce drought has been scorching crops this summer, but it's still too soon to know exactly how much of a hole it will burn in your wallet.

Kansas City Fire Department

Local fire departments warn drought conditions are producing grass and brush fire hazards in the metropolitan area.

Stop by most any unirrigated farm across the lower Midwest and you'll see crops in distress. Midwestern corn and soybean farmers are taking a beating during the recent drought, but it's not likely to drive many out of business.

Most of those farmers carry terrific insurance, and the worse the drought becomes, the more individual farmers will be paid for their lost crops. The federal government picks up most of the cost of the crop insurance program, and this year that bill is going to be a whopper.

As the scorching hot weather continues this week, cities in the metro are urging  water consumers to space out their watering and not to soak the ground. 

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

Drought has set in early and hard across the Midwest, parching the Arkansas River basin. The river trickling out of the mountains is dry before it reaches some of the major agricultural uses downstream.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Your neighbors' lawn is green. And yours? A pale shade of brown, with grass that crunches underfoot.

Governors To Visit Drought-Stricken Regions

Jul 17, 2012

Both Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback embark on tours today of their states' most drought-affected regions.

Courtesy of Landes family

The living room of Cheryl Landes' small apartment has the cozy feel of your grandmother’s living room.

No surprise.  She’s often watching four grandkids, as well as her own 13-year-old son.

This afternoon, two of them are playing with their hand-held electronic games. They can play alone, or together. They laugh as their small computers make music.

Cheryl’s 90-year-old mother, Billie,  lives here too. She quietly sinks into a club chair. She has chronic lung disease, and dementia.

Both Cheryl and her grandson have asthma.