The Quad-Cities hasn't seen a measurable amount of rainfall in a month, and moderate to severe drought conditions are settling in around the Midwest, an area weather expert says.
A total of 0.49 of an inch of rain fell at the Quad-City International Airport on Aug. 5, and other than a trace amount two days later that wasn't enough to measure, that was the last date of any rainfall worth noting, National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Ervin said Wednesday.
"We measure to the hundredths of an inch, and it doesn't take a whole lot to be measured," he added.
All told, only 0.76 of an inch of rain fell during the month, making it the ninth-driest August on record in this area.
Moderate drought is affecting southeast Iowa, including the Quad-Cities, as well as northern and western Illinois and parts of Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Ervin said. Central Iowa is experiencing a severe drought.
The impact on agriculture has become significant.
Agronomist Virgil Schmitt of the Iowa State University Extension Office in Muscatine said corn and soybean crops likely will not turn out as well as hoped at the start of the planting season.
"I think our seed size is going to be smaller than normal," he said of both the corn and soybean crops. "Corn kernels likely will be smaller this year. As for soybeans, I think it will be more than just a reduction in bean size. I think we'll also lose pods and there will be a reduction in the number of beans in the pods."
Ervin said most lawns have gone dormant in Iowa and much of Illinois. Lawns exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day are at risk of dying, he added.
Ron Fischer, a perennials grower at Wallace's Garden Center in Bettendorf, said customers have complained all week that their shrubs are dying.
"Most people don't realize we're in a drought, especially after we had such a good spring," he said.
He recommends that shrubs, lawns and trees be watered at least once a week, adding that the lawn should receive an inch of water each time.
He said customers lost a lot of shrubs during last year's drought and replaced them this spring only to have the new ones suffering without water now. He recommends planting new shrubs in soil with a mushroom compost to allow roots to take hold and better absorb water.
At least the honeybees like the drought. Fischer, who manages honeybees at home, said that in hot and dry weather, plants are "stressed" and actually produce more nectar than in wet weather. And with the wet spring, more nectar-producing plants grew this year, he added.
Fischer also manages fruit tree orchards both at home and at the business. He said the trees didn't produce a good crop during last year's drought, but they are beginning to show signs of producing a "bumper crop" this year.
Midwesterners are accustomed to significant shifts in weather. But going from 2012's severe drought to widespread winter and spring flooding and back to the current drought is "extremely unusual," Ervin said.
"We went from the wettest winter on record and one of wettest springs on record, and now we are in the midst of drought," he added.
Ervin said the combination of heat and exceptionally dry weather for much of August has resulted in the current drought.
(Times reporter Thomas Geyer contributed to this article.)