Dry weather challenges Iowa and Illinois growers

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Extreme weather is taking a toll on crops. Unusually dry weather is coming at a bad time for corn and soybean growers.

Farmers like to say that rain makes grain. That's why they're sending a shout out for showers.

It's dry these days at the Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm.

"We need rain," said longtime director Vince Lawson.

It's so dry for Lawson that his weather station's rain gauge is empty.

"It's not being used much right now," he continued.

It last rained there on July 25. That's a trend of below normal rainfall for six of the last seven weeks in Iowa.

It's reducing soil moisture, which is critical for the crops. As a result, dry weather is starting to affect the growing season.

"These pods basically dry up," Lawson said, pointing to a soybean plant. "They don't get any bigger, which translates to no yield."

At Steve Kreuger's farm in Letts, Iowa, workers are busy harvesting watermelons.

"I don't think we got two-tenths of an inch of rain out here last month," he said.

While the produce grower is enjoying a good season, dry weather is driving up the cost of irrigation. And that drives up his bottom line.

"It makes it tough," he said. "More expenses, I've got to run the irrigation rig more often."

The latest crop report reflects that trend. Less than half of Iowa's corn and soybean crop rate good to excellent. Nearly two-thirds of Illinois crops still rate good to excellent.

It's a critical time for corn, and especially, soybeans.

"This is where they will really fill out," Lawson said. "Get a lot fatter, thicker."

That makes the need for wet weather even more important. Without it, farmers could be looking at later and smaller harvests.

"It's not too late," Lawson concluded. "We're still hoping for a rain."

But for now, irrigation sprinklers are providing the only showers around these parts.