There is a new way to look at drought stress in Illinois – from space. Called VegDRI, this product integrates “satellite-based observations of vegetation conditions, climate data, and other biophysical information such as land cover/land use type, soil characteristics, and ecological setting. The VegDRI maps that are produced deliver continuous geographic coverage over large areas, and have inherently finer spatial detail (1-km resolution) than other commonly available drought indicators such as the U.S. Drought Monitor,” according to the VegDRI website.
In other words, it looks at crop stress as it relates exclusively to drought. The maps are updated every two weeks.
The August 22, 2011, map below shows that crops in much of western and central Illinois are showing much stress from the lack of rain and high temperatures in July and August. If you go to the VegDRI website, you can see a national map. Click on a state to get a closer view. Scroll down the state page and click on the quadrant map of the state so see even more detail.
The National Drought Mitigation Center produces VegDRI in collaboration with the US Geological Survey’s (USGS) Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), and the High Plains Regional Climate Center (HPRCC), with sponsorship from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA). Main researchers working on VegDRI are Dr. Brian Wardlow and Dr. Tsegaye Tadesse at the NDMC, and Jesslyn Brown with the USGS, and Dr. Yingxin Gu with ASRC Research and Technology Solutions, contractor for the USGS at EROS.
Temperatures in Illinois this week have ranged from the upper 90s to the low 100s. At times the night-time lows have been in the upper 70s and low 80s as a result of the high humidity.
Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Extension, has a thoughtful discussion about the effects of these conditions on crops in Illinois. In general, high day-time temperatures are not a major concern for corn until they get above 100 degrees. Other potential problems include: high night-time temperatures leading to higher losses of sugars available for crop growth; high humidity levels increasing the risk of foliar disease; and the lack of rain in parts of Illinois since the beginning of July leading to reduced photosynthesis.
You can read the full story on the University of Illinois web site “The Bulletin: Pest Management and Crop Development Information for Illinois” High Temperatures and Crops.
Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois agronomist, posted an interesting article about the impact of wet fields on newly planted corn. The article appears in the current issue of The Bulletin, published by the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES). The article starts out about frost damage but halfway down Emerson addresses the potential damage of all the heavy rains.
A larger concern after heavy rainfall in parts of Illinois this week will be standing water and, for the crop recently planted, the possibility of emergence problems. There were a few reports of death of germinating seeds in fields planted a few days before heavy rain in parts of western and southwestern Illinois, but this is not widespread. We think that such seeds simply ran out of oxygen and that shoots died before emergence. Seedlings that have emerged and have roots are more resilient, but there is a very good chance that plants that stand in water for more than two or three days will not survive, especially if temperatures go up. Higher temperatures mean less oxygen in the water and also faster seedling metabolism rates, so plants run out of oxygen sooner.
Even if plants survive, their regrowth can be slow due to poor conditions around the roots. Diseases can also invade plants that stand in water; one example is the downy mildew fungus that can carry crazy-top, whose symptoms won’t appear for weeks after the water is gone. In any case, we often see plant size and health diminish as we move from the edge to the middle of low areas where water stood. If the size of the drowned-out area is large enough to justify a repair-planting after it dries up, it might be a good idea to plant into the area around the edge with living but slow-growing plants as well, in order to replace sickly plants with healthy ones.
In an earlier post, I noted that areas in western and northern Illinois were exceptionally wet in the first half of May. The latest NASS report for Illinois shows that as of May 16, 56 percent of the state had topsoil moisture rated as surplus.