This year started off looking like it was going to be a great year for crops. We had a mild winter, and spring warmed up pretty quickly. Farmers were able to get into the fields and start planting early. All signs pointed to a great (and early!) harvest in the fall.
And then it didn’t rain.
And then it didn’t rain some more.
And it still hasn’t really rained.
This is the corn field that was planted in early April. Here are the corn plants four weeks after planting.
Six weeks after planting, everything still looked great. The corn was growing well and looking really good.
Eight weeks out, everything still seemed to be in good shape. Have you heard the phrase “knee high by the fourth of July?” Farmers want their corn to be at least knee high by July 4th. This indicates that it is growing well, and fast enough, to be ready to pollinate and put on ears, and be ready to harvest on time. We hit knee high by the 4th of June this year, without a problem!
And then we started to see the issues that come with no rain. Can you see the differences between the photo above (8 week old corn) and the photo below (10 week old corn)? These are of the same corn field, just 2 weeks apart. The big change is that this corn is starting to look dry. See how the leaves look kind of spiky in the lower photo?
The leaf below looks pretty good – see how it is open and flat? It’s ready to soak up some sun and put that photosynthesis to work!
Here’s a different corn plant, in the same field on the same day. See how this leaf is all curled on itself? The corn plant does this to try to conserve water. When it curls up, there is less surface area exposed to the sun and air, and it loses less water. Capturing sun for energy for photosynthesis is important, but the plant needs water for photosynthesis, too.
Here’s the same cornfield on Sunday July 8. Now the corn is 13 weeks old, and it’s not doing so well. It put on tassels on the top of the plant, and started to get a few ears with silks, but now it has started to dry up and die. See how the bottom of the plants are turning brown? This corn is dying before it got a chance to really make its ears.
This is what corn should look like in late August or September – after the ears have had a chance to mature and grow kernels. Even if we get a bunch of rain now, it’s too late to save this cornfield. The corn is dying from a lack of water. It started to put on ears, but there isn’t enough water for the kernels to form. Which means there won’t be much to harvest this fall.
It’s looking like this all over our county, and all over Indiana. .
It’s not just the corn that’s affected by the drought. Soybeans are also in trouble. And grass isn’t growing to make hay for livestock like we need it to be. Apple trees started putting on fruit early this year, but without rain the fruit is falling off the trees before it gets ripe.
Wherever you are, keep praying for rain! There are some fields that won’t be helped by rain now, but there are plenty of others that will… We’ll take every single drop of rain we can get right now!
See what this field looked like in August, 17 weeks after planting.