Farmers fearing the worst as drought cripples crops - Republic-Times | News

Farmers fearing the worst as drought cripples crops

By on June 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

With little to no rain on record the past two months and persistent hot, dry and windy conditions, many Monroe County farmers are pushing the panic button on this summer’s bean and corn crops.

The U.S. Drought Monitor currently lists all of Monroe County in some stage of drought, with the southern portion in severe status. Counties farther south and east are in severe to extreme drought status.

The Monroe County Farm Bureau reported an average rainfall of 4.8 inches in the county for April — but only 1.7 inches in May and 1.4 inches so far in June.

A quick look at the weather forecast indicates no real threat of rain over the next several days and temperatures at or above triple digits.

“Yes, the drought is serious and is affecting the entire county,” Monroe County Farm Bureau Manager Brenda Seboldt said. “There is a great deal of concern among farmers. With no rain in sight, things will continue to deteriorate fast.”

A spring of warm weather that saw winter wheat coming out of fields and heading to market two to three weeks earlier than most can remember has turned troubling for these same farmers.

“People like the low humidity and warm breezes,” Walter Wetzel said from a bone-dry corn field surrounding his farm home off Route 156 west of Waterloo. “But plants don’t. If it is unpleasant for us, hot and sticky, generally, they love it.”

But such is the unpredictable nature of farming. There are too many possible results of your hard work and sweat — and not all of them are good.

“If you don’t love it, love to be in the fields working and trying to bring in a good crop, farming’s probably not for you,” Wetzel said.

Soybeans bloom and produce seed for a longer period of time and can still result in a decent crop if they had a good start to the season. But a large percentage of this year’s corn is currently in pollination, when extreme heat and lack of rain is most detrimental and can severely stunt growth.

Corn typically pollinates best in temperatures in the mid-80s with adequate soul moisture.

“This week will hurt corn yields significantly,” Gateway FS agronomist Jerry Roosevelt told the Republic-Times on Tuesday. “To say farmers are concerned is an understatement.”

Roosevelt insists he tries to keep an optimistic view of the situation, however.

“I’ve written off corn crops before and still seen decent results when it was all said and done,” he said. “But we’ve gotta get some rain and cooler temperatures.”

Terry Liefer, who farms in the far southeastern portion of the county, said corn prices are trending up, but without bushels to sell, it makes little difference.

“This is still June and we are in August-type weather,” Liefer said. “The crops are probably a three on a scale of one to 10. A good rain can take the corn to a six, but that’s about it. Beans can still get to eight, if things improve.”

The drought has had an effect on lawns throughout the county as well.

“I can’t remember the last time we had a 24-hour long soaking rain,” local landscaper and lawn care professional Adam Linnemann said.

He said lawns need about an inch of water a week under normal circumstances. But with the heat and extreme lack of rain, people need to be watering more.

With the dry weather, weeds are also thriving as the turf is thinning out.

“I recommend core aeration in the fall, as well as overseeding to help thicken back up the lawn,” Linnemann said.

Teryn Schaefer

Teryn was born and raised in Waterloo, growing up watching local sports and Mon-Clair baseball. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School and loves cheering on her Tigers any chance she gets.