BY EMILY BRUNS
A lack of rain for the past couple of months has not only turned yards yellow throughout the region, but it is also taking a toll on area farmers.
The dry spell is threatening crop yields throughout the state of Illinois, including Ogle County. With the lack of rainfall during the typically wet months of May and June, farmers are anxious to see some precipitation before the hotter and dryer months of July and August hit.
“Everyone has experienced significant loss in yield potential. It is hard to predict how this year is going to turn out. Trying to predict that would be like trying to predict the weather,” said Rochelle farmer Chuck Cawley. “I’ve never seen a year quite like this where it’s started so dry. It’s been erratic and inconsistent. On top of that, we’ve had rollercoaster temperatures. It’s been rough all around.”
Ron Kern, Manager of the Ogle County Farm Bureau in Oregon pointed out that so far crops are holding up rather well, but that won’t last too long.
“Despite the weather, it’s surprising that the crop looks as good as they do. You can see it’s starting to show stress though. Anytime crop is using energy to keep itself alive is not good because it’s bound to run out,” said Kern. “I understand statewide that we are running short everywhere. This is early in the year to be showing signs of stress. That is everyone’s largest concern.
So far, whenever it rains, we just get enough to feel better but only to ho
Joe Kaisher, Manager of SeeDirect in Rochelle, agrees with Kern.
“We’re going into the summer with a deficit,” said Kaisher. “On the better soils, the crops haven’t shown as much stress but there is visible damage starting in some fields. There’s already been some yield loss.”
Kaisher added that while the corn has been suffering, it is a very resilient crop and uses defense mechanisms to stay alive, such as curling its leaves as to avoid the direct power of the sun. Although such mechanisms do not make for a strong crop, they enable the crop to hold over until the next rainfall.
In addition to corn and soybean crops being hit by the lack of rain, pastures for feeding livestock and other crops, such as wheat, have been affected.
Across the county, Mount Morris native, Craig Nelson, partner of Nelson Farms and Crop Specialist for AgView FS in Ashton, said that the lack of rain has hit the feeding pastures the hardest.
“Pastures [for feeding cows] are really short. We’ve had to supplement with hay because of this. Normally, we never give our cows hay during the summer, but of course this year is a whole different year. We really only have enough hay to feed our cows over the winter. If it doesn’t rain soon, we’re going to end up buying more hay to keep them sustained over winter.”
In addition to the direct problems of not having rain to grow crops, Nelson also mentioned that the hot and dry weather has opened the invitation for unwanted pests, as well.
“Japanese beetles have emerged over the past few days. A lot of farmers right now are nervous that they are going to have to spray later in the season,” he said.
Despite the wide range of challenges that Ogle County farmers face due to the dry season, a few good rains within the next few weeks could help the crop bounce back. Until then, farmers will just have wait as their answer lies in the sky.
Although the past few weeks have been tough on local farmers, the majority of them have seen similar rain conditions, if not worse, in years prior.
“That’s farming I guess,” Nelson reasoned. “You put the crop in, do your best to get it going and Mother Nature does the rest. You just have to protect what you can.”