Abnormally dry July leaves local crops starving for water, farmers concerned

Published: Jul. 30, 2018 at 10:20 PM EDT
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This summer's growing season has been a tough one for area farmers.

"It's just burning up," said Swanton farmer Doug Keil. "We just need the rain. Bad."

For the month of July alone only 0.3 inches of rain has fallen in Toledo.

A quick glance at Keil's fields shows just how big a toll it has had on his crops.

"I think we've probably lost probably about 30 to 40 percent of our yield already," said Keil.

Keil farms land in Fulton and Lucas counties which are both facing a "moderate drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

It comes at a bad time as the lack of rain has seemingly stunted the growth of his corn.

"The corn crop alone will take about an inch [of rain] a week," said Keil. "So ... we’ve had about a quarter-inch in about six weeks. So we’re way behind.”

All-in-all it has been a tough year for farmers as a soggy spring delayed planting until the end of May.

Now facing the opposite issue farmers like Keil are working overtime to save their produce.

"We work 16, 17 hours a day and then get up in the middle of the night and move irrigation," said Keil. "It just makes extra work that we don't want to do, you know. And plus it's more expensive, too."

Just around the block from Keil's farm sits Johnston Fruit Farms.

While the peach crop was spared owners are concerned the absence of rain could hurt the fall apple harvest.

"We're crossing our fingers," said owner Martha Mora. "Those later apples do need a couple rain showers to, you know, size them up nicely."

While Mora would like to see some rain, she says there is an upside to having none of it when it comes to fruit.

"In the fruit business not having enough rain means sweeter cider, sweeter apples," said Mora.

As one of the driest July's on the books comes to a close area growers like Keil and Mora are hoping for a wetter august to save their crops.