Corn Belt Disaster in Wake of Record Heat Wave
By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist.
July 19, 2012, 10:20:00 AM EDT
Even though the recent heat wave has ended, weeks of drought and days of 100-degree temperatures have already taken a toll on this year's corn crop in a large part of the Midwestern United States.
The corn crisis from several weeks ago is now becoming a disaster.
Many farmers in parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kansas are facing a crop failure and financial impact. Ultimately, the consumer will likely feel the heat from the upcoming corn shortfall.
First, it was the southern part of the corn belt from Kansas to the Ohio Valley. However, during late June and early July, the drought and heat spread into the central part of the corn belt from portions of Nebraska and Iowa to southern Wisconsin.
The heat and ongoing abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions have occurred during the pollination period of the corn.
Either heat or drought can stress the stalks, but both can basically shut down the pollination process. When this happens few, small or no ears of corn form.
According to AccuWeather.com Agricultural Meteorologists, you can't raise a corn crop with less than an inch of rain over six weeks, combined with 100-degree and higher temperatures. However, these conditions have taken place in much of the southern corn belt through the week of July 4, 2012.
Evansville, Ind., has only received 0.74 of an inch of rain since June 1 and has had at least 10 days of 100-degree temperatures since the last week of June.
In the central part of the corn belt, which was in good shape until recently, 100-degree temperatures and little or no rain during the pollination period forced a turn for the worse in many areas.
In Waterloo, Iowa, in the heart of the corn belt, rainfall has dwindled to under an inch in the past several weeks, while temperatures have reached the century mark last week.
Even though some rain and lower temperatures have reached the area during the second week of July over much of the region, it is a case of too little too late.
Most of the rain this week will fall south of the corn belt.
This year's United States corn crop is likely to fall well short of original expectations.
While conditions continue to be favorable for a bumper output over the northern part of the corn belt, the poor harvest in southern areas will greatly impact overall production of this year's crop.
The upcoming shortfall is likely to impact the price of corn feed and grain-related items significantly and could trickle down to higher food and gas prices. Chickens, for example, eat primarily corn feed. Fuel currently contains between 5 and 10 percent of ethanol, which is distilled from corn.
Weather and drought conditions in the hard-hit areas were approaching that of 1988 and 1983. Extreme heat and drought hit during much of the growing season in 1988. In 1983, a burst of extreme heat occurred during the pollination period of the corn.
Despite better agricultural practices from lessons learned during drought years dating back to the 1930s, much of the corn belt does not have irrigation.
AccuWeather.com warned of the implications of building drought over the corn belt back in early June.
At least there is some good news in other agricultural areas. A wet pattern is evolving for the Mississippi Delta.
According to Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, "The coming rains will help the soybean, rice and cotton crops in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, which have been struggling in drought and excessive heat."
The pattern will bring high humidity and frequent showers and thunderstorms to most of the Delta.
While it is too late to aid the corn crop in the lower part of the Midwest, showers and lower temperatures would still benefit soybeans grown in the region.
Some rain is forecast to reach into the peanut growing areas of the South missed by Debby in June.
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