Illinois corn chopping set to start as drought worsens

Some Illinois farmers are giving up on their corn crop as the 2012 drought digs in deeper. That’s putting field crews into action this week to salvage something from failing crops.

Extreme weather puts a crew into action on Monday in rural Warren County.

“We’re ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Dan Byers, a farmer who operates Byers Custom Forage Harvesting & Bagging with his father, Ron Byers.

Inside their shop, they’re preparing large equipment to chop failing corn fields later this week.

“I think the drought is more widespread than it was in 1988,” said Ron Byers. “And I think it’s more severe.”

So severe that some stressed corn just won’t make it. Starting in fields near Springfield and Quincy, crews will literally level the corn plants. The silage will become livestock feed.

As grazing areas burn up under the intense heat and dry conditions, it’s an important option.

“Guys have got to feed their cattle,” said Dan Byers. “And the hay crop is short.”

Chopping crews are starting about a month early. They’ll have a lot more ground to cover, working 80-hour weeks.

It’s a brutal pace for the father-son team. Their map pinpoints where crews will be working. There are more phone calls and assignments each day as the drought worsens.

“Most of the crop in this drought-stressed area where there’s no ears, it’s done,” Ron said.

These aren’t happy chores. As the corn crop continues to deteriorate, extreme weather shows no sign of letting up. Crews will need to cover more acres just to get the same amount of feed.

“We don’t like assignments like this,” Ron concluded. “It’s more business for us, but we don’t like it.”

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