Land's Dry, and the Crops Are in Trouble Farmers Soon May Need to Ask for Aid

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Byline: Mick Zawislak Daily Herald Staff Writer

Searing heat and drought conditions are wrecking Lake County crops, scorching corn from the ground up and causing thirsty spider mites to attack soybeans.

The conditions are intensifying at a crucial time when corn is pollinating to form kernels on the cob and soybeans have begun to flower. At this point, half the crop may be lost and farm bureau officials are exploring extraordinary measures to seek relief for farmers.

"I honestly can't tell you what's keeping it going," said Pete Tekampe, Fremont Township supervisor, who farms 750 acres of corn. "I don't know if we're going to get any pollination."

An assessment last week showed as much as half of the corn and 40 percent of Lake County's soybean crops are damaged.

Soybeans are just coming into blossom, but spider mites are invading the plants seeking what little moisture is available.

"It just looks awful. The outlook for our crop this season is bleak," said Greg Koeppen, Lake County Farm Bureau manager. He said Lake County is among the worst hit in a widening drought affecting Illinois and parts of Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.

"I describe our corn field in Lake County like a pineapple field in Hawaii," he said. Corn should be 6 feet tall by now but is far short. "The leaves are turning brown and dying. It's called firing."

Like his counterparts in many other counties, Koeppen already has applied for low-interest loans from the U. …