Originally Posted Online: Sept. 05, 2013, 5:28 pm
Last Updated: Sept. 05, 2013, 7:29 pm

Drought 'moderate' in Quad Cities area

Comment on this story

By Tyler Langan, tlangan@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
The Quad-Cities are is now in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Tuesday. Local farmers have little hope for rain in the near future and are unsure the extent of how yields will be negatively affected by more dry weather.

The Quad Cities saw less than an inch of rain in August and farmers are not sure how much more dry weather their stressed crops can take.

Heavy spring rains provided enough moisture to keep the Quad Cities out of a drought, but the U.S. Drought Monitor report issued today said local communities are now in a moderate drought. Unfortunately for farmers, there isn't much hope for rain.

Moline received 0.76 inches of rain in August, 3.76 inches below average, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS is predicting storms on Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Meteorologist John Haase at the NWS said it isn't certain what those storms will actually produce.

"That's a matter of how wide it is and who gets (the rain)." Mr. Haase said. "That's kind of tricky to predict at this point."

Despite the drought conditions, the Quad Cities area is still 4.97 inches of rainfall above average for the year, according to the Mr. Haase.

Crops in Mercer County began showing signs of stress about six weeks ago, said Michael Zecher, a Mercer County farmer.

"It was pretty obvious that the stress was becoming very prominent in a lot of our fields," Mr. Zecher said. "It's just continued to get progressively worse everyday."

The corn crop may suffer, Mr. Zecher said, but he expects soybeans will take a harder hit. August rain is vital for soybeans because during that period the plants develop pods that carry beans, he said.

"At this point in the ballgame, we've got the pods developed," Mr. Zecher said. "But now we have to get beans inside the pods, and that's what ... is becoming critical."

Tom Mueller, who farms in Rock Island County, said his bean crop is developing, but he's worried it won't produce a good harvest.

"There are some pods on the beans, and you can feel that there's a bean in them, but it will take some moisture so that bean can get some size to it," he said. "I'm afraid the beans we have now will be like BBs instead of full-size beans."

Corn develops kernels in July, and the Quad Cities had high rain levels. The problem, Mr. Mueller said, is the kernels will not develop as much depth and weight without steady rainfall.

According to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, corn futures have fallen $0.11 since trading began on Monday, and soybean futures fell $0.27, despite the local uncertainty. Mr. Mueller said other parts of the country are growing healthier crops.

"The crop looks pretty good in Indiana and Ohio and especially in southern Illinois," he said. "The harvest is starting in the deep south, and yields have been very good down there."