SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The United States is experiencing some very dry weather and much of southwest Missouri has entered the ‘severe drought’ zone.

Robert Balek, a horticulture expert with the Missouri State University Extension Center, said that the worsening drought conditions may affect more aspects of life in the area than people realize.

“It’s not just a sunny day,” Balek told Ozarks First. “It’s not just hot out. It’s actually impacting our local economy.”

Balek said that farmers are feeling the heat through reduced corn production, which means less crop yield. If the crop doesn’t yield enough corn, farmers may use the cornstalks as silage to feed livestock, because the drought is also affecting hay yields.

Another section of the economy that may experience trouble is the landscaping industry. Professional lawnmowers are losing money because the drought is keeping grass from growing, which means less work for them.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought conditions have spread over much of Missouri and the greater region. The southern half of Howell County, most of Oregon County, and a southeastern portion of Shannon County have even entered ‘extreme drought’ conditions. Those drought conditions could worsen with temperatures lingering above the 100-degree mark and showing no signs of dropping soon.

A greater portion of Missouri is experiencing severe drought. The cities affected by the overdry heat include Ava, Baxter Springs Bolivar, Branson, Joplin, Lebanon, Neosho, Rolla, and Springfield. To the north of this severe drought area, ‘abnormally dry’ and ‘moderate drought’ zones dominate until northern Missouri.

Balek said that the extreme drought areas of Missouri are expanding.

Over the past 30 days, precipitation has averaged between 0-25 percent of normal values in the extreme and severe drought areas. Temperatures have averaged 2-4 degrees above normal over the extreme and severe drought areas and 1-2 degrees above normal over the rest of the area.

Soil moisture in the top several inches of the ground remains below 10 percent over much of the region. Over the next seven days, mainly hot and dry weather is expected to continue through the middle of next week.

If you want to stay up-to-date on drought conditions in southwest Missouri, you can find information on the Missouri State University Extension Office’s website.