The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 30, 2012

Dry conditions put dent in growing season


DANVILLE — It was a tough growing season for farmers who dealt with dry conditions, putting a major dent in expected corn and soybean yields.

County averages won’t be released from the U.S. Department of Agriculture until early next year, but farmers were reporting a down year for corn as a result of the dry conditions that began in May and continued for much of the season.

June and July precipitation was sparse at best this summer, with rainfall totaling 1.76 inches. The average is just more than 9 inches. May only provided an additional 2.2 inches, still below the monthly average of 4.4 inches. The totals put Vermilion County, along with a large portion of the rest of the state, in severe drought status.

But in August, Aqua Illinois statistics indicate Danville received 6.4 inches of rain as a result of a series of storms, easily surpassing the 3.9 average for the month. Other parts of the county received more from the showers.

The moisture boost was enough, farmers say, to help soybeans rebound somewhat through the remainder of the growing season.

Jim Angel is state climatologist for the Illinois State Water Survey. He said last year’s light winter left the soil dry in February and March prior to the growing season for farmers.

But despite the year’s dry conditions, the Vermilion County and east central Illinois areas have done a good job catching up on moisture.

“Some places could use quite a bit of precipitation,” he said. “We’re still down a couple inches.”

And that is still providing some concern for farmers. November is supposed to be a wet month for farmers, but rainfall fell well short of expectations. According to Aqua Illinois measurements, Danville received 1.14 inches of rain, less than half of the 3.53-inch rainfall average for November.

According to the USDA, 87 percent of the topsoil in the central and east central part of the state has adequate moisture levels.

But below ground, the dirt is still dry. Subsoil moisture levels are listed at 46 percent short and 45 percent adequate.

According to the National Weather Service in Lincoln, the year started as the record high temperature for Danville was tied for the month of March. The city also saw the warmest nights on record, with lows in the 60s. The month of May averaged 5-6 degrees above normal with unseasonably hot temperatures in the 90s occurring during the Memorial Day weekend.

The warm May contributed to the warmest spring on record in Danville, according to the National Weather Service.

According to Angel, history does not tend to repeat itself when it comes to dry seasons in Illinois.

“It’s been really bad one year, but we’ve never had historically back to back bad summer droughts,” he said.

Overall, 2012 ranked among the 10 driest growing seasons on record in the state, he said.

“But in most cases, the following summer was down an inch or so, but nothing too alarming,” Angel added.