Prolonged dry conditions from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic this summer has some farmers concerned about how it will impact their crops.
The corn crop, an important staple along the parched agricultural zone extending from Iowa to Pennsylvania, is already being affected. According to some farmers, the timing couldn't be worse.
"Right now is a very critical time for corn," said Elizabeth A. Hinkel, district manager of the Schuylkill Conservation District to the Republican Herald of Pottsville, Pa.
With the corn in tassel, the crop is beginning to pollinate, which requires ample amounts of moisture. "If there's no rain to aid in pollination and the plants are stressed, a lot of times it won't fill out," says Hinkel.
The reduced crop yield creates a domino effect and might force farmers to incur costs by purchasing feed for animals.
A few months ago, the growing scene couldn't have looked any more different.
Throughout the spring months, persistent rain led to an excess of moisture, which delayed planting in many parts of the "Corn Belt." The quick drying that followed planting turned the soil into a sort-of concrete, preventing the crops from developing a deep root system.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, the area impacted by this dry weather is expanding. Parts of eastern Iowa, northern parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and a large part of Pennsylvania are now considered "abnormally dry," a precursor to a full-blown drought.
Rainfall totals have been well less than 50 percent of normal in many areas.
As anyone with an outdoor garden can attest to, the blazing heat has been exasperating the situation by further stressing out and even damaging crops.
Recent showers and thunderstorms have been helpful, dropping as much as a few inches of rain on these parched soils, but the short-term relief won't be enough.
Since many farms are not equipped with advanced irrigation systems, farmers fear a complete loss of their crops without appreciable and prolonged rain events soon.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released last Thursday, shows abnormally dry conditions in areas from eastern Iowa to Pennsylvania. (National Drought Mitigation Center)
The concerns over the dry weather go well beyond the farm, extending to the common homeowner. Conversations among meteorologists here at AccuWeather.com have slowly turned from garden health to the conditions of their lawns over the past few weeks.
"My yard is about to spontaneously combust," tweeted Senior Meteorologist Eric Wilhelm last week after a thunderstorm and its beneficial rainfall missed hitting his home.
While there appears to be opportunities for some rain this week, the storm track that has stayed persistently to the north doesn't look to be shifting much farther south anytime soon. Unfortunately, this will continue the dry, warm pattern throughout the zone over the next few weeks.
This pattern will also prolong a historic drought currently impacting Texas and the southern Plains.
From AccuWeather.com (find the original story here); reprinted with permission.