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Crops ‘hanging in’ after hot, dry stretch

No significant negative impact – yet – in Sauk Valley fields

A farmer has his irrigation system going full force Friday in a field south of DIxon. After a wet spring and early summer, conditions have dried up considerably in recent weeks.
A farmer has his irrigation system going full force Friday in a field south of DIxon. After a wet spring and early summer, conditions have dried up considerably in recent weeks.

Warm, dry weather is having an impact on farms in the Sauk Valley.

After a stretch of more than 4 weeks of cool, dry weather, temperatures across the state returned to normal last week, according to recent Illinois Weather and Crops reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But the rain hasn’t come.

“The dry conditions across the state continue to have a negative impact on the crop conditions,” according to the Aug. 26 report.

In addition to a lack of rain, this past week saw temperatures rise into the 90s, with heat indexes of more than 100 degrees.

Andy Pratt farms 3,200 acres of commercial corn, 1,200 acres of seed corn, and 1,000 acres of soybeans on land about 10 miles west of Dixon. Although he can’t put a number or measurement on this week’s impact on crops, every day a physical toll can be seen, he said.

“They’re hanging in, day by day,” Pratt said. “The heat this last week has hurt them more than the lack of rain.”

He said the combination of this week’s high heat and lack of rain has given cause for concern, but the real impact won’t be seen until harvest.

Compared to last August, this August has been drier, Pratt said, which is an assessment Whiteside County farmer Don Temple agrees with.

Temple farms 500 acres of corn and 150 acres of soybeans on the western edge of the county. The weather’s impact has been visible, he said.

“We’ve definitely seen a little more stress [on the crops],” he said. “I think the soybeans are showing it a little more than the corn, on my farm. Our soybeans are getting close to finishing up here, so I’m not sure if rain will do a lot now. They look pretty good.”

Dr. Emerson Nafzinger, a professor in the Department of Crops Sciences at the University of Illinois, said the weather, over the entire state, may have cut into the yield in some regions.

“I think a lot of farmers need to be concerned about it now,” he said.

Other than the past 2 weeks, the crops haven’t been too stressed, so the negative impact shouldn’t be too big, as long as there’s some rain soon, Nafzinger said.

For Temple’s land, it isn’t quite time to be concerned. He said he starts to worry when he sees the corn leaves “rolling up,” a defense mechanism to retain moisture.

Between now and the harvest, rain will be important to finish off what the USDA has forecast as a record corn yield.

Rain could add a few bushels to a corn crop that Temple thinks will be above average. The recent hot, dry weather hasn’t had a significant negative impact on his crops, he said.

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