Last week’s 100-degree heat and no rainfall took a toll on Iowa’s corn crop. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report rates just 46% of Iowa’s corn in “good to excellent” condition. That compares to 62% a week ago and 82% one year ago.

Don Elsbernd planted about 1,000 acres of corn this year on his farm located near Postville in far northeast Iowa. “We haven’t had rain at my house since either the 23rd or 24th of June,” Elsbernd said. “We were dry before that and that rain was certainly welcome, but it only lasts so long.”

The USDA rates 18% of Iowa’s corn crop as being in “poor or very poor” condition. Many farmers are comparing this year’s situation to 1988 – the year of Iowa’s last major drought. “That was probably the worst crop I ever had,” Elsbernd said of 1988. “I think then we still harvested somewhere between 80 and 100 bushels (per acre). Will this (year) be better than that or worse than that? It’s really too early to tell yet, but the dryness and the heat last week is stressing the corn very significantly.”

Although cooler conditions are in this week’s forecast, there’s only one cure for nursing Iowa’s corn back to health. “We’re still going to need rain. Without any rain, we won’t get any crop,” Elsbernd said.

Julius Schaaf farms in the opposite corner of the state – with 3,500 acres in Fremont County. Much of southwest Iowa has escaped the drought conditions reported elsewhere in the state. “Our (crop) has excellent potential, but we’re going to need more rain and right now it doesn’t look like it’s in the cards,” Schaaf said.

Many Iowa farmers were concerned how their corn crop would fair last week as hot weather can put corn at risk during the pollination stage. “It looks like we got pollinated here pretty well,” Schaaf said of his fields. “There’s just a matter of kernel fill now that could be in jeopardy.”

Iowa led that nation last year in corn yield – producing 172 bushels per acre. It’s unlikely the state can match that total this year. “If we don’t pick up some rain, we’ve only got one direction to go and that’s lower yield,” Schaaf said. The USDA will release its prediction of 2012 yields on Wednesday.