When asked a month ago how his corn and soybean crops would fair this year, third generation farmer Bill McNeil was quite pessimistic. In the midst of a summer drought with extremely high temperatures, his 500 acres of land between Grayslake and Lake Villa were looking like a loss.
The corn, in the midst of pollinating season, was hardly forming kernels, and his soybean crops, while slightly better off, were still expected to take a hit.
Now after cooler temperatures and some rain to northern Illinois, McNeil said things aren't quite as bad as expected. At this point he is hoping to harvest up to two-thirds of his crops for the season.
"It's not great, by any means, but definately better than I thought," McNeil said. "The beans are looking good right now, making pods and setting pods." However the corn is another story.
"The corn is nice and green and that looks good, and there are ears on the stalks, but the question is if the kernels are coming in or not," he said that answer won't come for another month.
According to Farmweeknow.com this year's corn nationwide could be more than 30 percent less than original spring estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Farmers now are also dealing with insect infestation, including spider mites that can wipe out an entire crop within weeks.
"The insects have no place to get their food and moisture. When they mow the grass next to the fields, all the mites come into the crops," McNeil said. "We've had to spray for the first time in a while for those bugs."
Meantime at Sandhill Organics farm in Grayslake, owner Matt Sheaffer said things are looking up. "Definately things are good. I'm surprised at how good, actually." Sheaffer's tomato plants are actually the best he's ever grown, some reaching more than six feet tall. His peppers are fairing well also.
Unlike the corn and soybean farmers in Lake County, Sandhill which maintains 45 of the 100 acres on the Prairie Crossing Farm, irrigates their crops every other day. He said this has proven more beneficial than the rain because the rain splashes dirt onto the tomato plant leaves, potentially causing disease on the plant.
Last month Sheaffer lost an entire field of lettuce due to bitterness from lack of rain, and his carrots were nowhere as sweet as they should have been. He said the one crop not doing well at this point is the broccoli. Sheaffer was actually planting an entire new field of the crop this week, hoping it will mature enough in time to be harvested.