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Illinois Dry Spell Could Kill Harvest For Farmers

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Drought

Animal footprints are visible in dry and cracked mud on the bank of the half-full Bewl water reservoir in Kent, England, on April 5, 2012. (Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Sometimes we forget, but not far from the Chicago skyscrapers are sprawling farm fields, where there is growing concern about the dry weather and the real threat it poses to what could have been a bumper harvest.

“We’re walking the line between a disaster and possibly a bumper yield,” says Dave Kestel, who farms 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans near Manhattan in Will County. “If it kept raining and we had a beautiful summer from here on out, we would have very good crop. If it stops raining, this crop will fall on its face because there are no reserves. The subsoil is dry.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Grzanich reports

Kestel keeps a close watch on the skies and both ears tuned to weather reports on the radio. He says some recent rainfall was a welcome sight but it didn’t do enough for his corn which is at a crucial stage of development.

“We did luck out and got just over an inch. It was made to order but it’s only going to buy us a few days. With the temperatures we’re at now, the crop will run out of moisture within a few days. With the hot and the wind, that really sucks the moisture out of the ground in a hurry.”

From May 1st to June 12, rainfall averaged just two to five inches in Illinois leaving rain gauges anywhere from one to two inches short of normal precipitation. Experts say much of Illinois is abnormally dry with drought conditions spreading. In southern Illinois it’s already being classified as a severe drought.

“Mother nature is definitely the boss. If we haven’t figured that out by now we’re in the wrong business,” said Kestel. He feels sorry for fellow farmers downstate who will probably end up losing most of their corn crop.

Concern about the dry weather is already blamed for an increase in commodity prices involving corn, soybean and wheat. That could impact grocery bills down the road.

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