To farmers, it's not a 'moderate' drought

To farmers, it's not a 'moderate' drought

CHAMPAIGN — A moderate drought is making things bad here, but East Central Illinois farmers are saying it's more than moderate.

The National Weather Service said there is a severe drought in Cass, Christian, DeWitt, Douglas, Fulton, Logan, Macon, Mason, Menard, Morgan, Moultrie, Piatt, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott and Tazewell counties.

A moderate drought is in Champaign County, along with Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Edgar, Effingham, Jasper, Knox, McLean, Peoria, Shelby and Vermilion counties.

Moderate drought is defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor as "some damage to crops, pastures; fire risk high; streams, reservoirs or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent, voluntary water use restrictions requested."

The forecast calls for rain Saturday, followed by falling temperatures.

David Kristovich, head of the Center for Atmospheric Science at the Illinois State Water Survey, said the drought status coincides with his own observations. Champaign, Piatt and Vermilion counties saw about 6 to 10 inches over the summer, at least 2.5 inches below normal, Kristovich said.

"Most of that rain came in only four significant events," he added.

State climatologist Jim Angel said the cities didn't fare any better on rain. Champaign-Urbana's June rainfall had 4.18 inches, 0.03 inches below normal; July was 1.58 inches, 3.12 inches below normal; and August was 1.76 inches, 2.17 inches below normal.

"That works out to only 7.52 inches for the three months, 5.32 inches below normal," Angel said.

In Danville, June was 3.99 inches, 0.35 inches below normal; July was 1.30 inches, 3.56 inches below normal; and August was 1.95 inches, 1.35 inches below normal.

Angel said that works out to only 7.24 inches for the three months, 5.26 inches below normal.

Agronomy Professor Emerson Nafziger said drought means one thing to weather scientists and another to farmers.

"That's a meteorological definition, moderate drought. But the dry soil and crop damage started several weeks ago. If you asked a corn farmer, they'd say it's probably more than 'moderate.'"

"We know this dry weather the past two months has had a damaging effect on corn and soybeans," he said.

What can a farmer do now?

"If they can't turn on a irrigation switch, there's probably not much to do, except pray," Nafzier said.

He said it was hard to say if rain Saturday would make much of a difference. Corn damage has already shown up in the kernel numbers, and some soybean leafs have started to turn yellow.

"Some rainfall might help the soybeans, but not much if the leaf has started to turn yellow," he said.

Nafziger said that there were many days this summer when rain was predicted but did not land here.

"It's a painful thing to hear others got rainfall and we didn't," he said.

But other Illinois farmers have had an even worse season.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Geelhart of Lincoln reported the worst conditions are from Macomb through Springfield to Decatur, with crop damage, voluntary water restrictions and wells running low.

Springfield saw 0.25 inch of rain in August, 2.88 inches below normal. It was the second-driest August on record. Decatur had 0.01 inch of rain during August.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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