Corn, soybean yields crippled by drought

Friday, October 7, 2011

The summer's scorching heat and scanty rains were brutal on Vernon County corn and soybeans with decreased yields resulting in lost production worth at least $56 million.

Agricultural businessmen and officials said Wednesday that the corn, now 80 percent harvested and in normal years the county's top cash crop, averaged from 25 to 50 bushels per acre after a third of its 55,000 acres had been cut for animal feed or plowed up.

That's disastrous because it usually produces from 130 to 180 bushels, said U.S. Farm Service Agency Executive Director Jawan Thompson. "At $7 a bushel, the farmers are losing $38 million just on the corn harvest," he said.

"Soybeans usually make 40 bushels an acre and bringing $10 a bushel with half that much on 90,000 acres, the loss is $18 million," Thompson said, noting the soybean harvest has just gotten underway.

He said June rainfall was 57 percent below normal with 2.44 inches compared to the normal 5.63 while July precipitation was 34 percent below par at 2.63 inches compared to the average of 3.96 .

Noting there were 2,000 acres of irrigated corn on the northwest and southwest quadrants of the county, Thompson said, "We never had a general rain.

"There were small spots out there that did better, but on the average it was one or two inches of rain in strips."

Producers Grain Fertilizer Plant Manager Brock Mullis said the corn "was very disappointing -- from zero to 70 bushels.

"The heat hit us during pollination from late June to late July," he said. "If it doesn't pollinate, you're looking at an ear with no kernels in it. People described it as the worst drought since 1980."

Mullis said the early soybean yield is 20 to 25 bushels per acre, hampered by problems with double-cropped "after wheat" beans on 25,000 acres used to grow winter wheat.

University of Missouri Extension Agronomy Specialist Pat Miller said the corn "varies a lot from zero to 160 bushels in the southwest.

"An average yield is around 40 to 60. I haven't heard much on the soybeans yet. Some of the early double-cropped beans are OK, but some of the later ones never did even get a decent stand."

Along with the drought's reaching the peak of its severity at the worst time, Miller said, the corn was further damaged by the development of a fungus that bred aflatoxin.

"Drought stress can cause the aflatoxin-bearing fungus," she said, explaining that a high level of aflatoxin can render the corn inedible. "I have not heard if anybody got rejected."

Farmers Ag Grain & Propane Manager Kenny Brundridge said from Deerfield that the corn "is pretty short, some zero and some not very good, and the soybeans are making half of what they should be or less.

"It was hot for a long time, up to 105 and 110 degrees. A lot of pastures had been put into production, but the whole county was generally bad."

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