‘We are starting to fall apart’: Nebraska crops will not be ‘sweating’ as long this year

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Crops like corn and soybeans can sweat like humans do.

In fact, one acre of corn can release up to 4,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere per day.

Over the years, farming throughout the midwest has changed from growing wheat to now planting more warm-season crops, such as corn and soybeans.

With that change comes more humidity.

These types of crops have the ability to “sweat” in a way that adds more moisture during the hottest months, making it muggier outside.

Nationally, 90 million acres have been planted with corn and soybeans, according to the Nebraska State Climate Office. These types of crops are able to sweat to stay cool, like we do.

“What corn sweat is, it’s basically like any plant, it’s actually a measurement of transpiration,”said Al Dutcher, Nebraska Agricultural Extension climatologist. “Simply put, humans sweat, air blows across your skin helps the cooling effect. It’s kind of the same process for plants except for the fact that it’s used to cool the leaves.”

More farmers from Texas to Canada are planting corn and soybeans. Because of this, the midwest is seeing more concentrated moisture during a time when the atmosphere can hold even more water.

“Really the only difference is the timing of that moisture,” Dutcher said. “The reason this has become a hot topic is because if you look at the distribution of corn in the United States, it’s not just growing in Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. We grow all the way from southern Texas all the way up into portions of south-central Canada.”

A broader portion of the country is experiencing higher humidity since more land is now being used for these types of crops.

States in the south start to plant their crops earlier than Nebraska. Planting seasons start later as you go north.

By the time crops from the south and crops in Nebraska mature and sweat, the period of peak humidity can be felt from the middle of July to the middle of August as winds from the south transport this air over the state.

However, the water reserves that these crops use to sweat and survive have run out.

“We are starting to fall apart here in east central and southeast Nebraska,” Dutcher said. “We have finally used up all that surplus moisture that was put in the profile prior to planting and through the first month of planting when the crop wasn’t using a lot of water.”

Usually, corn can transpire through August, but with current conditions, crops will not be “sweating” as long this year.

With drought conditions expected to increase and little to no rain in the forecast, significant amounts of rain will be needed to relieve these conditions in the future.

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