Drought conditions challenge Warren County corn crop

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It's a crucial time for corn in southern Warren County.

"It's just bad," said Roseville-area farmer Andy Huston.

That's where curling leaves show the impact of hot, dry conditions. The next week will be critical in area fields.

"The crops are really starting to show the stress," he continued. "It's all up to Mother Nature now."

At the University of Illinois Research and Demonstration Center in Monmouth, timely rains are helping the crops. But across the state, nearly half the corn is ranked poor to very poor. That sets the stage for a challenging harvest.

"It's going to tell this Fall," said Roseville farmer Brian Monroe. "There's no question about it."

As the USDA continues to downgrade the corn crop across Iowa and Illinois, it depicts some of the worst growing conditions in nearly 25 years.

"No moisture and over 100-degree weather during that time is not very good," said Mark Phillipson, USDA's Warren County executive director.

Extreme weather is taking a toll on the corn.

"It's been kind of a rapid deterioration," he continued. "There's a lot of anxiety out there."

That one-two punch of heat and drought is pushing up corn prices 35% over the past month. It's eventually going to hit consumers in the wallet on everything from butter to beef.

If that's not enough, Japanese beetles could be the worst ever in Warren County. The destructive bugs and tough conditions leave farmers looking for answers.

"Cool evenings and not extreme daytime temperatures would be a perfect scenario right now," said University of Illinois Research Specialist Marty Johnson.

But each day without rain and cooler temperatures will just add to crop stress.

"This gives you a little hope when you can see a cloud in the sky," Monroe concluded.

Hope for better weather days to ease this drought during the 2012 growing season.