EFFINGHAM (MCT) — It’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer for area farmers like Ken Dasenbrock. But it’s anybody’s guess how bad the end result will be.
“We just have to sit and wait,” said Dasenbrock, who grows corn, soybeans, hay and wheat on his spread north of Effingham.
After several months of well-below-normal precipitation, area farmers are facing more of the same until at least late September. That’s not good news for folks like Dasenbrock. He said the dryness could lead to reduced yields at harvest time.
“We usually get between 160 and 180 bushels per acre for corn,” he said. “What we’ll get this year, nobody really knows.”
Dasenbrock said yields for his corn could drop as low as 120 bushels per acre.
The National Weather Service has declared drought conditions for much of central and southern Illinois as a result of the extended dry spell. Most of the area, including Effingham, Clay, Shelby and Cumberland counties, has received the D1 designation for moderate drought.
But in Jasper County, conditions have worsened to the point where farmers there are laboring under D2 drought conditions — the second of four drought categories assigned by the weather service.
National Weather Service forecaster Chris Geelhart said the meteorological cycle that has led to a difficult summer began several months ago.
“We didn’t get as much snow as we normally would, which left us with less moisture in the ground,” Geelhart said.
Compounding the issue, Geelhart said, are weather patterns in the Great Plains that are driving moisture north toward Minnesota and Canada, instead of east toward Illinois.
“A large area of high pressure in the Plains has been causing less moisture to come this way,” he said.
Geelhart said the rest of the summer doesn’t look much better, though he cautioned that precipitation forecasts can be a bit uncertain.
“We’re calling for warmer-than-usual temperatures this summer,” he said. “Long-term precipitation trends aren’t as clear, but it’s supposed be drier than normal for the next six weeks.”
Geelhart said the area is likely to retain its drought designation until at least late September.
A long-term drought designation could allow farmers to access crop insurance benefits. Dasenbrock said most farmers probably will wait and see how yields are affected before applying for benefits.
“If it’s below a certain threshold, we might be able to receive benefits from our insurance,” he said.
Dasenbrock said the next couple of weeks are critical for the corn crop because of moisture needed in the tasseling process.
“It needs to rain really well when the corn is tasseling or setting the ears,” he said, adding that soybeans can more easily recover from dry conditions than corn.
Dasenbrock said the dry conditions will also hurt the hay harvest.
“Hay will be in short supply,” he said. “The second cutting won’t be much of anything.”
Dasenbrock, who returned to the area in 1998 after retiring from ATandT in St. Louis, said he hasn’t experienced this level of dryness since he began farming.
©2012 the Effingham Daily News (Effingham, Ill.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services