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The longer the heat wave lingers over the Midwest, the more concerned area farmers become. And if the unusual weather pattern hasn’t already hurt yields, experts say that it won’t be long until it does.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a prolonged heat wave like this,” said Ron Marshel, manager of the Fayette County Farm Bureau. “And even though we’ve gotten enough moisture to keep the plants going, the heat has taken a toll.”
In particular, Marshel said that the extreme heat has stressed corn plants during the critical pollination stage.
“The month of July was too hot for pollination,” he said. “Even though the corn may look great, some of the ears have not filled out. They just didn’t get pollinated well. We can’t make any blanket statements yet, but it’s enough to concern me.”
At this point, Fayette County isn’t hurting for moisture like many counties in the central and north-central parts of the state. Maps released this week by the Illinois State Water Survey show Fayette County straddling the line between an area to the south that received 100-125 percent of the normal July precipitation and an area to the north that received 75-100 percent of the norm.
The situation gets even more grim as you go north – with a band of very dry conditions from Danville and Champaign on the east to Beardstown and Quincy on the west. Those areas had between 25 and 50 percent of the normal precipitation in July. The central part of the state – Springfield, Peoria and Decatur – received 50-75 percent of the normal precipitation for the month.
At least for the time being, soybeans don’t seem to have been affected as adversely as corn.
“The more mature beans are forming a canopy (between rows) and are looking good,” Marshel said. “They have been helped by the rains we’ve gotten in our area. We’ve had an extended planting season, so we have beans all over the map – from just a few inches tall to fully mature height. Hopefully, we'll have a late frost.”
Marshel said that while he hasn’t received reports of any livestock deaths due to the heat, he has heard of producers putting fans and misters in their barns to cool the animals.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate here,” he said. “But the forecasts say that we’re in for more hot and dry weather in August.”
Because of the unusual growing conditions, Marshel said that the Farm Bureau’s annual crop survey will be delayed – probably until the second week in September.