ST. LOUIS — The drought experienced by many farmers in the Midwest could have been a lot worse, according to Drew Lerner.

The meteorologist, speaking at a meeting of the St. Louis AgriBusiness Club, said precipitation — or lack of it — often is overrated, and temperatures are underrated.

“The thing that’s most important to any summer is temperature more than it is rainfall,” he said. “You can have a mild summer and get no precipitation and those crops hang in there. They’ve got that subsoil moisture, and they just don’t get stressed out.

“You get those temperatures to 95 to 100 degrees on a regular basis, you’re losing about six- or seven-tenths of an inch of moisture every day, just from evaporation. It doesn’t take very long.”

He pointed out that the drought monitor also takes into account water supply and the depth of reservoirs feeding corn and soybean fields.

“Half the normal rainfall in the middle of summer is not a good thing. And the only reason we’re not in a much worse condition is because we were so cool earlier in the year,” he said.

“We were losing so much rainfall in July and now. The difference is the afternoon temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s. Last year, we were losing rainfall in July almost at the same pace as we are now. The only difference is the afternoon temperatures are in the 70s or low 80s. In that kind of environment, you don’t lose as much moisture as quickly.”

Hot temperatures ganged up with low rainfall last year to produce one of the worst droughts in memory. A good portion of the corn crop in some Illinois fields was either severely damaged or abandoned.

“Last year, by this time, the crop was gone,” Lerner said.