Dealing with drought

ARGOS — To most of us, the summer’s above-average heat and dryness is an annoyance. To local farmers, however, the weather represents a serious threat to their livelihood.
Dan Voreis, of Argos, has farmed for 40 years and said he’s never experienced a drought like this.
“It started in May and hasn’t let up,” said Voreis earlier this week.
He’s currently going through the time-consuming and expensive process of irrigating a portion of his corn and soybeans. Out of the 800 acres he farms, Voreis is able to irrigate about 150 acres. Moving the towable center pivot to water different fields every few days can take about three hours each time.
“(The pivot) wasn’t ever designed to be the only source of water,” explained Voreis, adding that this year so far he has made three well repairs and two repairs to the pivot itself.
Bob Yoder, Marshall County Purdue Extension Educator, said, “In years like this (irrigation) has a more profound impact on yield, but in a typical growing season it keeps yields closer to yield potential of the soil. One advantage of irrigation is more consistent yields each year as long as overall fertility and pest management has been done properly.”
Each farmer’s cost to irrigate an acre of ground, continued Yoder, will vary for due to power source, type of irrigation system used, and size of the field.
Although irrigation helps, nothing but rain can save all the crops, said Voreis.
“I have crop insurance, but that still means I’ll be working this whole year for nothing,” said Voreis. “I’ll basically break even or even go a little negative. These are the worst dry conditions I’ve seen. Everybody has just kind of given up on the crop. The beans still have a chance, if we start getting rain by August 1.”
The few showers that the area has experienced in the past weeks help slightly, but are not enough to change the potentially disastrous loss.
“Anything is better than hot sunshine right now, but we really need a couple of inches of rain to turn things around,” said Voreis. “There’s just nothing that replaces rain.”
Voreis normally uses the irrigation system as a “boost” for his crops, but this year has relied on it heavily. He’s already used about 12 inches of water on the cornfields alone.
The United States Department of Agriculture released news earlier this week that 36 counties in Indiana, including Marshall County, have been designated primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by extreme drought.
“The summer of 2012 will not be long forgotten by those producers and their families who are negatively affected by severe dry weather,” said USDA state executive director Julia Wickard in a statement.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is offering low interest emergency loans to eligible farmers in the disaster areas.
Although extremely dry years such as this one are always a risk, Voreis said that he is willing to chance it in order to work a profession he loves.
“There’s nothing else I’d rather do,” said Voreis. “You know there’s going to be dry years, (but) to me there’s nothing more enjoyable than harvesting a good crop in the fall.”