FOUR STATES — Area farmers and ranchers may have some very difficult decisions to make as the drought continues.

Most of us have never heard of prussic acid, but farmers and ranchers sure have. Both are a problem during the kind of weather pattern we’ve been in for several weeks now.

Robert Balek with the University of Missouri Extension Office explains which plant types are most affected.

“When we have drought, certain toxins build up in pasture grasses. Johnson Grass, Sorghum Sudan Grass, other grasses can accumulate prussic acid, and also nitrates, which become toxic to cattle, two different compounds,” said Balek.

When that happens, ranchers may have to switch to an alternate food source for their animals.

Since the drought is so widespread in the Midwest, they may have to purchase hay from areas not affected by drought, adding to the cost of doing business, and they may have to do that for an extended period of time.

“These toxins in the hay are an issue right now, but the second issue is that it’s too dry really to get a second cut in the hay fields, so there will be less hay available into the fall and winter so we’ll have to mediate that as well as we can,” said Balek.

Balek says that might lead ranchers to cull the herd, or keep only the healthiest of the herd and sell or butcher the others.

“But crops and cattle aren’t alone when it comes to suffering from triple-digit heat exposure.”

By this point in the summer, these vegetable garden plants should be full of tomatoes.

But, Balek says they simply just don’t germinate in this kind of heat like they do during normal summer temperatures. By the time the weather cools down enough for that process to start naturally, it may be too close to the end of the growing season for it to happen.