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Farmers grappling with drought throughout Michigan’s thumb

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 10:38 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) (07/30/2020)-Right now, most of the thumb remains under a moderate drought. While parts of the area have seen some decent rainfall recently, not everyone's getting it. That's especially tricky for local farmers.

“We were quite concerned.”

If it wasn’t record flooding, it was that trade war with China. Wayne Hecht and farmers across Mid-Michigan had their hands full in 2019.

“We had such awful heavy rainfall in the spring,” recalled Hecht. “Flooding and then drought… we had a terrible, wet harvest.”

This year, the shoe’s now firmly on the other foot: not enough water to go around. Scorching heat and precious little for these fields to slake their thirst.

“We would like to have a nice shower,” said Hecht.

According to the US Drought Monitor, Wayne’s Vassar corn fields now fall in the midst of a moderate drought along with most of the thumb, declared following weeks of at best spotty showers. Nationally, farmers—especially those along the west coast--are eyeing some of the worst conditions they’ve seen in a decade.

“Two trenchers improving drainage systems… they both said how very hard the soil is at that depth,” related Hecht. “There’s not much of a reservoir of moisture beneath us.”

The fear being a lower quality late summer, fall harvest with a smaller yield. In corn’s case, the USDA’s latest reports bear that out, pointing out declining quality in more than a dozen states, including Michigan.

“If you have excessive drought during that time, when you come for harvest, you’ve got cobs that only have half of the kernels on because it didn’t pollinate properly,” explained Hecht. “That’s the concern.”

Together with the lingering effects of 2019′s less than ideal circumstances, it’s adding insult to injury. Despite the parched earth, Wayne’s sweet corn crop is coming together. A cause, Hecht says, for optimism.

“This seems to be a pretty good sweet corn crop,” said Hecht. “It’s kind of a surprise, actually… I’m optimistic.”

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