MU Facebook Page Offers Drought Information

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COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri Extension has launched a Facebook page devoted to this summer's drought. The page contains information and research on the drought's impact around the state. The page is the Extension's latest effort to use social media to respond to natural disasters.

"We're really hoping for some rain and lots of it over a long period of time," said Megan Stoll, the page manager and multimedia specialist for the extension. "But until that happens we can use this page to communicate with people what the levels of drought are in their area and how they can best avoid losing landscape plants and their grass."

The MU Extension used Facebook pages after other natural disasters such as the Branson and Joplin tornadoes and last summer's flood. Stoll created the page in late June and so far the page has more than 350 likes. The 2011 Missouri flood Facebook page has more than 2,000 likes and the 2012 Joplin tornado page has more than 47,000 likes. Stoll said even though the drought page is just getting started, she expects more growth and community involvement.

"We can build that kind of community that people can help each other out," Stoll said. "Right now it's small but I'm sure that as it catches on it will grow bigger and bigger. This is just one way MU extension tries to serve the community." 

Lifelong farmer Tim Reinbott said he expects to lose most of his crop to the drought.

"I've been involved in agriculture all my life and this is the worst drought we have had," Reinbott said. "Normally from May 1 to mid July we have 11 inches of rain. So far we've had 2 1/2 inches."

Reinbott said he's expecting to yield only 5 percent of his crop this year and at this point there's almost nothing he, or any other famer, can do to stop the losses. Reinbott said he's at mother nature's mercy. 

"This is one of those years that we hope we have enough savings and our bankers are friendly enough that they can ride us out that one year," Reinbott said. "Normally when we have droughts like this, economically it takes us two to three years to get over it at least." 

Stoll said it's important to get information out early, especially in situations like a drought where damage is done over a long period of time, not all at once like a tornado or flood. Stoll posted information on the page on how farmers can receive low-interest loans to cover some of their losses. 

Reinbott said the only thing to do now is prepare for the future. 

"We're so far into the season there's nothing management-wise farmers can do," Reinbott said. "What we're going to have to look at is next year to be very conservative with our soil moisture. Hopefully when we do get some rains this fall and this winter we do conserve what we have."