The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

August 25, 2012

Effects of drought unknown to farmers

DEWITT — Farmers around the area like Joe Dierckx know the drought’s effects are still unknown.

With harvesting beginning, many farmers, Dierckx said, will see how much the summer’s heat and lack of rain took a toll on their crops.

“We are gearing up for harvest now,” Dierckx, president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau, said. “Getting equipment ready, cleaning out bins, checking harvest contracts. The problems will start after harvest when guys realize how much was (not) produced on each of our individual farms this year.

“The tragedy is still unknown.”

Jim Blaess, official U.S. weather observer, said rain from Aug. 12 to 13  amounted to .35 inches. More sprinkles on Aug. 16 brought .23 inches more.

That brought the total  rain received in August to 1.90 inches, compared to the normal August precipitation of 4.61.

But it was still enough to bring some fields that had been  yellow and appeared  completely  finished, to “green up” somewhat.

“That happens, because there are  very few corn seeds (kernels) on each ear this year,” Dierckx said. “The corn plant will only be stabilized by the rain. It can’t take that energy and water to make more seeds. The rain only stops the deterioration of the corn yield.”

Virgil Schmitt, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist for Clinton County, said the rain will help  fill out the kernels that are there.

In soybean fields, he said, the rain will help with soybean seed numbers and size.

“Pastures are greening up somewhat, as well as hay fields,” Schmitt said.

Mark Hanna, agricultural engineer with ISU Extension, said harvest won’t be business as usual this year.

“Pre scouting fields and approaching harvest with the right attitude is an important first step,” Hanna said. “(Corn) ear sizes vary in many fields, even within the same farming operation. Ear diameter (cob and grain) is smaller than normal. With weak and/or lodged stalks and stems, it may be necessary to travel slower to ensure the crop feeds into the combine as easily as possible.

“For soybeans, crop and field conditions still have the potential to change before harvest.”

Regardless of conditions, Hanna urged farmers to make it a safe harvest and that unscheduled downtime due to an accident or fire is more costly than a few extra bushels of pre-harvest loss.

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