NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — According to the NDSU Ag Department, corn is the third most important crop in North Dakota, following soybeans and wheat.

And right now, corn is in a critical stage, where the weather could make or break the harvest.

Although corn is considered a warm-season crop, it grows best when temperatures are moderate.

Experts say this season has been especially hard on the crop because of a lack of rain in the central part of the state. And some unexpected hailstorms have even ruined corn fields in Hazelton.

Right now, corn is in the doughing stage, which means the kernels are starting to take shape and color. But experts say, farmers need more rain to ensure their corn harvest is a good one this year.

“Some of the corn around is kind of beginning to hit or is in a critical phase, its forming years,” said the Forage Crop Specialist for the NDSU North Central Research Center, James Rodgers. “We are getting grain fill. So now, in those areas that are a little bit short on rain, we need it to get that grain fill completely.”

North Dakota Farmers produced nearly 350 million bushels of corn last year. Producers say they plan to start harvesting in late September.