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Drought threatens corn crop

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Extreme weather is producing some of the worst growing conditions in 25 years. That's challenging eastern Iowa farmers to make some tough decisions in coming days.

Virgil Schmitt feels like a drought detective these days.

"This is a year when little things are really showing up," he said.

And those little things are turning into big things. Examining a rural Davenport farm on Wednesday, the field agronomist for Iowa State University describes a year of haves and have-nots with the corn crop.

"There are people in the viewing area who are going to say, 'I think I've lost more than 50% of my crop,'' he said. "There are other people in the viewing area that are going to say, 'I've never seen it look better.' And they're both probably right."

Extreme weather is leading to extreme variables for this growing season.

"Pollination has yet to occur on this one here," he said. "It is occurring over here."

After downgrading the corn crop statewide, there are prospects of more hot, dry weather. Weather that's taking a toll on the already stressed crops.

"What that's saying is that the crops are going to continue to deteriorate," he said. "That's the bad news."

For Schmitt, the drought is tough to decipher in Scott County. But to the north in places like Dubuque and Jackson counties, some farmers are about ready to give up on the corn crop.

"If the weather turned ideal from here on out, some of those people probably lost over 40% of their crop already," he said.

There's more hope for Scott County. But Schmitt estimates crops losses there at about 20%, and the stressed corn is likely to get worse.

"What plants like this need is a good drink of rain," Schmitt concluded. "They need a little cooler weather."

And as the drought detective puts it, prayers won't hurt.

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