We can’t blame the corn for this heat wave, but the moisture adds to uncomfortable conditions on the farm. Turns out, a natural process can make it feel more steamy outside.
Marty Johnson knows a lot about corn.
“It gets pretty stuffy, pretty fast,” he said as the temperature prepared to top 100 degrees on Tuesday morning.
And when the research specialist steps between rows of tall corn in Monmouth, the brunt of summer heat is striking.
“There’s a drop of the air movement across you,” he said. “You’re instantly hotter.”
At the University of Illinois test farm, it’s one of the most uncomfortable places in the country these days. But why is this happening in the corn belt? It has something to do with moisture that’s released naturally by plants and waterways.
“10% of it comes from plants and about 90% comes from surface water,” he said.
It’s already hazy, hot and humid. In the corn field, conditions can be unbearable thanks to evapotranspiration.
Reasons why you might feel more uncomfortable on the farm than within the city of Monmouth.
“You do see higher dew points,” said Mark Phillipson, USDA Warren County executive director. “I think that is because the corn fields are drawing up more moisture.”
Longtime farmer and seed dealer Rick Elliott describes is like plants sweating. It’s a natural occurence that just adds to an already sultry summer.
“It pulls up nutrients and water through its roots and sends it through the plant,” he said. “That moisture comes out the leaves.”
Back at the test farm, Marty Johnson prepares for the annual Field Day. This time, he’s requesting cooler, wetter conditions.
“We could use the rain,” he concluded. “But we’re not in bad shape down here right now.”