The Illinois State Fair begins in one week. The annual celebration of farm living is subject to the same thing that's been plaguing the rest of agriculture this summer, drought. At the Farmer's Little Helper exhibit, where kids can learn about agriculture, the crops look much as they do in the rest of the state: green on top, but yellowing at the bottom, with brittle leaves that crumble when touched. John Hawkins, with the Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau, says the yellowing always happens to corn. It's called "firing," and it's the plant cannibalizing its nutrients to fill the ears with kernels. But Hawkins says it's not supposed to happen this early:
"In a good year, these plants would be green, probably up to Labor day. And then they would start to dry out for harvest."
Hawkins says it's been so hot, in some places the fall harvest could start in just a couple of weeks. Fair manager Amy Bliefnick says apart from some patches of brown grass, she doesn't expect the drought or Springfield's water restrictions to affect the fair. She says safety is a higher priority than conservation:
"Not only do people need water, and we have plenty of cooling stations and water available, but we have 10,000 animals on the fairgrounds during the fair, so those animals need to keep hydrated also."
Long-term weather forecasts predict temperatures will remain above normal.
Support Your Public Radio Station