MARIETTA - Farmers in the region are reporting reductions in crop yields and a lack of food and water for livestock as southeast Ohio has experienced hot and dry conditions in recent weeks.
"I've lost 10 acres of (corn) already," said Marietta Township farmer John Thorniley. "It's all burnt up."
Thorniley has crop insurance on his corn, but he said he only takes out enough to cover his expenses, so he'll probably miss out on half the revenue the lost corn would have brought.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Marietta Township farmer John Thorniley Wednesday amid the 10 acres of corn he’s lost on his Ohio 7 farm as a result of the hot and dry conditions.
"I'm 89 years old and I've been farming a long time, and I can't remember too many times it's ever been as dry as this," he said.
And southeast Ohio apparently has it better than many other parts of the state and the country.
The U.S. Drought Monitor last week had the region listed as "abnormally dry," not as bad off as most of the rest of the state, which is classified as in moderate drought. A few counties in the northwest portion were even labeled in severe drought.
At A Glance
Normal average precipitation for June in Marietta: 4.6 inches.
Actual precipitation in June: 2.69 inches.
Normal average precipitation for July: 4.59 inches.
Rainfall so far this month: 0.71 inches.
Driest July in last 100 years: 1940, 1.02 inches.
Source: Charlie Worsham,
Marietta weather watcher.
From Ohio to California, areas are experiencing drought-like conditions, causing some farmers in places like Illinois and Indiana to already throw in the towel on this year's corn crop. Others are having to sell of their cattle since there is no grass to eat.
The USDA on Wednesday reduced its prediction of how many bushels per acre of corn farmers would harvest this year from 166 to 146.
"While it's not as bad here, it certainly is serious," said Chris Penrose, agriculture educator with the Ohio State University Extension in Morgan County.
Penrose said he is optimistic that additional rain this weekend can help salvage some crops and improve conditions somewhat.
As much as an inch to an inch-and-a-half is possible through the weekend, depending on the location, said Nick Webb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. That's an amount that some area farmers doubt will make much of a difference.
"We could get an inch or two ... it'd only last for a few days," said Randy Wagner, co-owner of R&K Wagner Farms in Lowell.
Forecasts for the rest of the month continue to call for hotter-than-normal temperatures. The weather service says chances are even for precipitation to be above or below normal.
Temperatures topping 95 degrees while corn is pollinating can stunt the growth of ears and prevent kernels from fully developing.
Barlow farmer Chuck Hicks said he is concerned about that for his corn, as well as the potential impact on his soybeans.
"If it stays like this, soybeans will start aborting their pods, and there won't be anything in them," he said.
Before the rain Wednesday, Wagner was setting up lines to a stationary irrigation system to provide some water to the sweet corn crop at R&K. Some years they don't even have to use the system on the sweet corn, which doesn't require as much water as some of the produce grown on the farm that is regularly irrigated.
Additional irrigation increases costs, Wagner said, noting the machines that run the system can use up five to 10 gallons of fuel in an hour. And it doesn't fully prevent the effects of hot, dry weather, said his brother and farm co-owner Keith Wagner.
Just like a person might not do his or her best work in extreme heat, plants don't perform to their full potential, even if they are irrigated, he said.
"The heat makes things ripen quicker, and it doesn't last as long," Keith Wagner said, noting the farm's raspberry crop lasted about two or two-and-a-half weeks, compared to the usual three, and some half-runner plants gave out earlier than usual.
The dry, hot weather doesn't just impact crops.
Betsy Anderson, organizational director for the farm bureaus in Washington, Monroe, Noble, Belmont and Guernsey counties, said farmers in the counties she works with are having to haul water to their livestock and in some cases move them to new pastures because grass isn't growing. Some have already brought out hay to feed their animals.
"Those are forages that they normally would not be feeding until the fall," Anderson said.
The drought conditions around the country have some wondering about the impact on food prices. But Anderson said even if they go up, it's not likely to benefit local farmers much.
"The trickle-down effect that comes back to the farmer is usually indirect and not seen," she said.