Drought continues to hurt crops, now spider mite problem emerging

By Audrey Williams

July 10, 2012 Updated Jul 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM CDT

MASON COUNTY, Ill -- Much of Central Illinois remains in a state of severe drought with little to no rain in the forecast. In 1988 farmers saw a similar situation.

One might think advances in science may help yield potential, but U of I extension small farms educator Matt Montgomery said that's not proving to be the case.

"Yes we have better genetics than what we did in 1988, but genetics can't stand up in the face of this," said Montgomery.

In fact comparing the early July crop report Montgomery says corn, beans, and pasture numbers are all fareing worse this year compared to 1988, with higher reports of poor to very poor crop conditions.

"We're better than 10 points higher than what were at this time in 1988 for poor ratings on corn. We've got twice as much of the bean crop rated as poor in the state of Illinois," he said.

The drought will continue to be a problem for all crops. But a new problem that's emerging in soybean crop is spider mites. Spider mites suck juice from the plant when they cannot afford to lose any more moisture

"A spider mite does exceptionally well in hot weather," said Montgomery. "It gets a lot more nutrition as it feeds because of the way the plant has trouble holding moisture in in this kind of weather."

Montgomery believes this is the beginning of an area-wide problem. In 1988 he says there was a significant spider mite problem, adding yet another comparison to that infamous summer.

Spider mites cause a yellowing of the plant and they can be managed with insecticides. To check for them farmers only need a simple piece of white paper.

"You pull up some plants that we suspect has two-spotted spider mite. We're going to rap those plants over the white sheet of paper, its going to knock off dirt and its probably going to knock off some mites. And if I see some of those little specks of dirt start crawling around I know we have two-spotted spider mite," said Montgomery.

Now the million dollar question remains: Just how bad will the drought and spider mites effect the end result?

"I think people are going to have their breath taken away just a little bit by the yield hit that we'll see," said Montgomery.

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