ST. CHARLES, MO (KTVI) - Midwest farmers face one of their toughest years in a long time thanks to the lack of rain and the searing heat. It is becoming a challenge to keep livestock and plants healthy.
But some farmers are using the weather to produce bumper crops. St. Charles resident Tom Goeke, owner of Herman's Farm and Orchard, is already harvesting thousands of pounds of ripe tomatoes and peaches from his eight acres along Highway 94. He worries about his fellow farmers. "Everybody is desperate. Unless you have a really good ground well like I have and you can control the amount of moisture you put on your crop."
Goeke has built an extensive drip irrigation system and he uses it carefully to force the plants to send roots deep into the fertile soil. "If you water everyday the roots will be shallow and the plants will wilt in this heat," he said. The slow drip irrigation sends water directly on the soil and avoids wetting down leaves which could cause fungus problems.
In this triple digit weather he's been using the irrigation system at night every three to four days.
"That cool, sixty degree ground water is going down on the root system cooling the root system and the root system thus is cooling the plant." The cool water gives the plant a break from the heat so it is better able to "fight the elements the next day."
Each year Goeke plants some tomatoes designed to survive in the desert heat of Phoenix. The plant will keep its blossoms and form the tomato fruit even when temperatures go above 95 degrees. What he can't prevent is the sunburn that damages some tomatoes. However Goeke expects to sell at least 80 percent of his crop.