Mundelein crop outlook not good
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:06AM
MUNDELEIN — When Pete Tekampe looks at his corn crop wilting under the extreme heat and drought conditions, the prognosis is not good.
“You see how these plants are dying from the bottom up,” he said, pointing to a number of browning corn stalks. “It’s because of the lack of moisture. You can see plants lying on the ground. That’s not a good thing.”
Tekampe, who is Fremont Township supervisor, farms approximately 600 acres of corn and soybeans in the unincorporated areas between Grayslake and Mundelein. He’s been farming for more than 50 years and said this is the worst drought conditions he can ever remember.
Timely rains over the past two weeks may have helped avert a complete disaster. Tekampe said his crops received about 2.4 inches of moisture during the rains of July 18-19, and a little bit more than a half an inch the week before that.
Tekampe said the rains may have helped save much of his soybean crop, but he believes it was “too little, too late” for most of the corn.
“The beans look a lot better. The corn crop is pretty much done. We might get 40 to 50 percent of a normal corn crop. The plants are still damaged and I don’t how much they’ll recover,” he said.
Tekampe is not the only local farmer who is suffering. Greg Koeppen, executive director of the Lake County Farm Bureau, said the combination of extreme heat and drought conditions has been a “double whammy” for all the farm crops in the county, including corn, soybeans and vegetables.
“As we look at it right now, we’re probably looking at a 40 to 50 percent loss of crops due to the heat and lack of precipitation,” he said.
Koeppen said the recent rains did help the corn and soybean crops somewhat, but it would take significantly more rainfall and cooler temperatures the rest of the summer to make a major difference.
“The corn is not producing much of an ear. The ear is much smaller than it should be at this stage and the beans are much smaller than they should be. They look like they’re about a month behind where they normally are at this point in the summer,” he said.
The hot, dry conditions also have exposed the crops to other problems like insect infestation, including spider mites that are attacking the soybean plants, Tekampe said.
“The heat makes them more active,” he said. “They like to chew on the dry leaves.”
Tekampe leases the agricultural land which he farms, some of which is located just west of the Fremont Township office near Route 60 and Fremont Center Road and the rest which is off of Peterson and Alleghany roads. He expects to take a big hit in the pocketbook this year due to the anticipated poor corn and soybean yields.
“I have to pay the lease whether I get a crop or not,” he said. “The bills have to be paid, and half of a crop doesn’t pay the bills. I’ll have to dip into reserves. Plus, I have crop insurance, which will cover some of the loss.”
Consumers also will feel impact of the poor farm yields this year, driving up prices on many common grocery items such as cereal and even soft drinks, which use corn syrup.
“Commodity prices are high right now and they’re just going to get higher, which will hit people at the food table,” said Tekampe.