El Nino May Be Good News for Lake County Farmers

Article excerpt

Byline: Scott Silvestri Daily Herald Staff Writer

Lately it seems El Nino's blamed for everything. And in fact its impact on the spring planting season for Lake County farmers could be quite real.

El Nino, the abnormal warming of the east-central Pacific Ocean, nearly produced the warmest February on record. Now forecasters are saying its lingering impact could be felt this spring. It may produce dryer conditions, helping Lake County's 600 or so farmers.

A dryer spring means that farmers will be able to get out in their fields sooner and begin planting.

"It's probably going to have a positive effect on the Midwest," said Lake County Farm Bureau manager Richard Raftis of El Nino's possible influence on spring weather.

If predictions of the dryer conditions hold true, this spring could be similar to last year.

"Last spring was the best I've seen in my 28 years here," Raftis said. "If it doesn't turn wet, (farmers) will be able to get out there early."

But longtime Lake County farmer Pete Tekampe, who's been in the business for 38 years, is skeptical about what impact, if any, El Nino may have going into the spring months.

"It's too hard to say what will happen this spring," said Tekampe, who grows mainly corn and soybeans on just under 1,000 acres in Fremont Township. "The weather now doesn't seem any different than in other years."

Tekampe, however, doesn't dispute the benefits of an earlier start on planting.

"Getting in earlier usually means your crops will be healthier and they'll produce a better yield," he said.

Forecasters predict farmers like Tekampe should have a decent shot at seeing the dry conditions. …