PEORIA COUNTY, Ill. -- Perhaps no one in the heart of Illinois watches the weather more than farmers.
Agriculture is vital to the economic engine of the entire region.
Just a year ago, though, farmers were struggling to get their crops in the ground because of heavy rains.
"It's a lot better, I would say, this year," said farmer Dale Benson of Trivoli, a small community just outside of Farmington.
"I think we will harvest a better crop than last year, for sure," he added.
It's a welcome change from last summer when many central Illinois farm fields were under water in May and June. As a result, some farmers didn't get crops in the ground until July.
Patrick Kirchhofer of the Peoria County Farm Bureau says farmers were happy to be back on schedule in 2014: "This year the corn crop was planted on time, late April, first part of May."
Kirchhofer said the weather this summer has been very good for corn.
He says the corn thrives when the temperatures are in the 80s with humidity, when there's about an inch of rain each week, and when the nights are cooler to give the corn a chance to "recover" from the daytime heat. So far this summer, the weather has basically followed that general pattern.
Benson says the lack of pests like the Japanese beetle has also helped the corn crop this year.
"It appears to be very healthy," said Benson, looking out on a corn field by his house on Smithville Road. "I can't see anything that would trigger my suspicions about anything invading it."
However, Benson says it has not necessarily been ideal weather for soybeans. He says the varying shades of green he has seen in soybean fields means it's been a little too warm and humid for that crop.
"We're seeing some maybe overly wet conditions out there," he said. "And soybeans are much more susceptible to funguses and other diseases when it's moist."
Still, he's expecting good crops this year from both his soybean and corn fields.
Kirchhofer says corn farmers especially want the current weather trends to continue.
"This is the time during the growing season when the corn crop really demands moisture and rainfall," he said.
If Mother Nature does her part, Kirchhofer said, "We could have a very good crop come this fall."