January and February are typically the driest months in Missouri. After last year's severe drought that crippled much of the state's agricultural activities, 2013 hasn't given farmers much hope in terms of having a good planting season thus far. The Southeast Missourian reports surface moisture has not penetrated into topsoil as much as it needs to in order to be ready for spring planting. Climate models may not improve until the end of the summer when moisture may return to normal levels.
* Dr. Michael T. Aide, head of the department of agriculture at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo., told the media outlet tests done weeks ago on soil six feet beneath the surface show there isn't enough moisture for plants to hold out until June or July when subsoil moisture may be scarce.
* Aide said it "really needs to start raining" before soil conditions improve. The best thing farmers can do is improve irrigation systems and not till the soil as much to try to retain moisture. Planting drought-resistant crops is also a good idea.
* Soil scientist Randall Miles of the University of Missouri said soil is "bone dry to at least five feet down" in some growing areas. Miles also reports it may take as much as two years before drought conditions completely dissipate for farmers to grow crops at normal levels.
* The most recent map of Missouri on the U.S. Drought Monitor shows improvement in southeast Missouri, but western Missouri is still in a severe drought. As of the date release of Feb. 12, nearly 17 percent of Missouri isn't in drought conditions, all of it in the Bootheel. Slightly more than 26 percent of Missouri, mostly along the western border with Kansas and Nebraska, is still in the severe stage.
* Recent rains in February will help, but more rain is needed to alleviate the extreme drought suffered in 2012. St. Louis has had just 1.04 inches of precipitation in February, a deficit of .32 inches to this point. In January, the metro area had more than three inches of rain to come out ahead by nearly 3/4 of an inch.
* St. Joseph, Mo., north of Kansas City , has had a mere .05 inches of rain in February, a shortage of nearly half an inch. In January, the same area saw .64 inches, ahead by .08 inches.
* Springfield, Mo. , in the southwest part of the state, is short nearly 3/4 of an inch of rain at .68 inches of precipitation. January's total was more than three inches and ahead by over half an inch.
* Poplar Bluff, in southeast Missouri, is ahead thus far in February with 2.17 inches of rain. The surplus is a mere .02 inches. Nearly 3/4 of an inch fell Monday, otherwise the area would be much further behind in winter rain totals.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.