Corn growing strong despite drought

Published 06/26 2012 10:15PM

Updated 06/27 2012 10:07AM

PESOTUM -- Crop farmers are bracing for a potentially devastating heatwave which could ruin yields. But, despite the drought, farmers say things could be worse.

So far this year, Champaign County has seen about 20" of rainfall. That's 6" below the average for this time of year.

Even with the lack of rain, just about everywhere in the county, corn stalks are 6' tall, sometimes even taller. Much of that is thanks to the new seeds.

"The hybrids we have right now are much better. There's been 40-years of progress," said farmer, Eric Rund.

A fungicide with a pink tint on seeds keeps worms from attacking roots. Over time, the seeds gained a stronger tolerance to drought. 

"They have a better root system. They're able withstand periods of dryness much better than the hybrids we had 40 years ago."

Rund says it's not just seeds keeping Central Illinois' agricultural industry out of danger, but location.

"This soil will hold a lot more moisture than the soils of Southern Illinois and the clays and so forth," he said.

"Three places in the world have this soil; Argentina, Ukraine and our corn belt. We're just blessed to be right in the middle of it."

But cracks in Rund's soil have him concerned especially since we haven't even reached the dog days of summer. That has him thinking this could be the area's worst drought in decades.

"It has that feel to it. I mean it's been dry since basically March. So, it has that potential to be a bad one," he said.

So what can a farmer do to weather this heat?

"You go to church more often, that's about the only thing you can do," Rund joked. "We can do all kinds of things with technology and fertilizers and herbicides, but without rain you can't do anything."

Rund says the next week and a half will truly test his crops. Tassels have formed on his stalks, but he says the extreme heat might hurt their chances to pollinate the corn.

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