Area farmers hoping for rain
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com July 7, 2012 8:54PM
Dead corn stalks lay in the fields in northern Vigo County Thursday July 5, 2012. The current drought has scorched thousands of acres of cropland in Indiana. The drought that's hitting much of the Midwest this summer will hit consumers in the pocketbook by next year, Purdue agricultural experts said Thursday, July 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Tribune-Star, Jim Avelis)
Updated: August 9, 2012 6:29AM
Will County farmer Jim Robbins hasn’t seen a growing season this hot since 1988.
But he still has hope that some timely rain will prevent the summer of 2012 from ending in disaster.
“We’re OK yet,” said Robbins, who farms in the Manhattan and Wilton Center areas. “But boy, I’d sure like to get some rain to go with this heat.”
When farmers were able to get into their fields early this spring, Robbins said he started to hope for a 200 bushels an acre average this year, up from last year’s 180 bushels an acre.
“It was ideal, no doubt about it,” he said of spring planting conditions.
But last month, farmers got about half the rain they needed for ideal growing conditions, he said.
If it rains soon enough, Robbins said yields could still reach 150 to 60 bushels an acre. If no rain comes, Robbins said he’s hoping there isn’t a repeat of 1988, when yields dropped to an average of 60 bushels an acre, which is the worst Robbins has seen in his 30-plus years of farming.
“It could get serious,” he said.
Right now is critical time for corn plants, which are developing their tassels and ears, he said. Once the tassels are out, the plants can be pollinated. Once they’re pollinated, though, they need water to plump up the kernels.
Without enough water, the plants could start “aborting” kernels, Robbins said.
Soybeans are a different story because they need more rain in August, he said. But keeping the plants alive and bug free until then in such dry conditions may be tough.
“We’re going to have to start spraying them, which is another expense,” he said.
About 60 percent to 65 percent of farmers in Illinois have private “Actual Production History” crop insurance, he said. So some farmers will be compensated if their yields fall below the threshold specified in their policies, he said.
“Hopefully, we won’t need it if we get cooler and we get rain,” Robbins said.
Fellow Manhattan-area farmer John Kiefner, who also has been farming for three decades, said that while conditions are bad, it’s not as dramatic as some may think.
“One out of every three years we have a dry spell and we always come through it,” he said.
But the entire United States is suffering, so if yields are down, prices will rise and farmers will be OK, he said.
“I like to joke, if we don’t get it right this year, we’ll be like the Chicago Cubs,” he said. “Wait until next year.”