Jim Coyne knows he has been lucky.
His farmland in Milan and Aledo, Ill., has received some of the meager rainfall that has fallen lately in the Quad-City area.
More than half of Iowa, including the counties in the Quad-City area, and virtually all of Illinois are in a severe drought according to U.S. Drought Monitor update issued Thursday.
Overall, more than 53 percent of the country is suffering from drought, according to the update. The chunk of the country experiencing severe drought or worse rose to 35 percent for the week. Experts call it a flash drought because it developed in a matter of months, not multiple seasons.
But, “things don’t look too terrible around here,” Coyne said Thursday as he surveyed his corn and soybean crops in Milan.
“Things are holding their own.”
There are a few yellow spots in the soybeans, and there are a few spots in the corn where the stalks are firing, meaning that the lower leaves are being sacrificed by the plant so the ears can get what water is there.
“I started out good in planting season,” Coyne said of his Milan farm. “I got 5 inches of rain at the end of April, and about three weeks ago I got another 2ƒ inches.”
At his Aledo land, 5 inches of rain fell in two days, he said.
Most of his corn has gone through the tasseling stage, while his soybeans have leafed out well and are in the flowering stage.
Go just a few miles east, however, and Coyne said the crops don’t look good at all.
“A lot of crops went through the tasseling stage with no rain,” he said. “There are a lot of corn plants where the plant has aborted the kernels.”
Coyne’s main concern now is his soybeans.
“I’m about a week or 10 days away from when I’ve got to have rain for the beans,” he said. If the crop doesn’t get it, then his bean crop will get hurt.
“The corn is pretty much done at this stage as far as the number of kernels on the ear,” he said. However, rain will help the kernels grow in size and add weight. But it is too late for the stalk to add kernels.
Coyne also has cattle on his Milan farm. He has to pay for supplemental feed this year to go along with his hay crop.
“Typically, I don’t have to feed.” he said. “But without the rain, the pasture has deteriorated.”
Some of the cows have calves that have not been weaned off of milk and it is important those cows get regular nutrition to be able to feed. Also, he has cows that are pregnant with calves for 2013.
“It keeps them healthy,” Coyne said of feeding the cows. “This is a critical time for them.”
Iowa State University agronomist Virgil Schmitt said Coyne’s current situation is typical.
“It’s very hit or miss,” he said. “There are some farmers saying they’ve never seen their crops look so good. But within a mile of them, the crops are a disaster.
“It all depends on who has gotten rain and who hasn’t.”
Schmitt said at the moment, the soybean crop is not in as much trouble as the corn crop and the hay pastures are, but the time for rain is getting critical for beans.
He also is wondering if cattle producers will have enough hay for the winter.
Rainfall would help the corn grow what kernels are there, and help the hay and pastures to rebound, Schmitt said.
Meteorologist Ray Wolf of the National Weather Service, Davenport, said Thursday there is little in the way of significant rainfall in the forecast.
There is a chance of thunderstorms early next week and again by midweek, Wolf said. But the likelihood of significant “widespread rainfall is low in the next seven days,” he added.
For the week of July 27 through Aug. 2, “Probabilities slightly favor warmer than normal temperatures and near to below normal rainfall,” Wolf said. The August outlook indicates a higher than normal probability for warmer temperatures and below normal rainfall.
Through July 19, the Quad-Cities has received 14.99 inches for the year at the Quad-City International Airport, Moline, where the official measurements are made. That is 6.02 inches below normal. So far, for July, the area has received only .31 of an inch of rain, which is 2.35 inches below normal.
The outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, for August through October shows that nearly every state likely will have hotter than normal temperatures. Much of the Midwest is likely to be drier than normal, too.
“It certainly is grim news for us in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest,” said Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel. “I kind of have given up hope for short-term relief.”
NOAA also is forecasting more triple-digit hot weather for several days, beginning Saturday, for much of the Midwest from Kansas and Nebraska to Indiana and Michigan, with temperatures about 12 degrees hotter than normal. And that will make the drought even worse, forecasters say.
One of the main problems is that the heat and lack of moisture are in a feedback loop. The ground is so dry that there’s not enough moisture in the soil to evaporate into the atmosphere to cause rainfall. And that means hotter, drier air.
Angel said the best chance for significant rain is going to come from the remnants of tropical storms or hurricanes that push into the Midwest, something that doesn’t happen often.
“That’s how desperate we are,” Angel said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)