November 26, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Kentucky grain farmers enjoyed a year of record and near-record production on their soybean and corn crops despite a rocky start.

A wet spring resulted in some cornfields having to be replanted, while planting was delayed in other fields.  It also was a challenge trying to apply fertilizer and making timely spray applications.

Luckily, weather conditions later in the season proved to be more cooperative, landing Kentucky farmers in a much better position than they expected in the spring.

“Throughout the growing season I swayed back and forth about how good the crop was going to be,” said Jim Herbek, a grain crops specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “First of all, we got a very early start on corn. Almost a fourth of the crop was planted by mid April, then it was slowed by wetness.”

About 20 percent of the corn crop was planted after the date generally considered optimal for attaining maximum yields, he said.

“This concerned me,” Herbek said. “I figured we would have a good crop and knew portions of the state would have record yields because of the early plantings but others would not. But as the season progressed, overall we had very favorable weather and that’s the reason for the good yields in corn and soybeans.”

There was above normal rainfall for the entire growing season, which particularly helped the late corn crop. The rains were timely in the majority of the growing areas of the state, and temperatures throughout most of the growing season were below normal allowing for little plant stress and more photosynthates going to ear fill rather than simply maintaining the corn plant.

“With soybeans we got off to a terrible start,” Herbek said. “We were behind the average all of the planting season, we finally got it completed around the first of July. Crop development was behind for the first month or two, but then it caught up because of the favorable weather that we had. That was particularly helpful on these late-planted soybeans. That’s why double cropped soybeans are yielding well.”

Another factor that had a positive influence on soybean production is the extended fall that allowed the late beans to continue to mature without a killing frost stopping their development, he said.

Final forecasts for the 2003 crop, issued in mid November by the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service, show a record soybean yield of 43 bushels with corn at 140 bushels per acre.

Corn production in the state is expected to total more than 152 million bushels, an increase of 44 percent over a drought ridden 2002 crop. The yield estimate of 140 bushels is the second highest on record. Across the country, both production and yield records could be set this year if estimates are realized.

Soybean production in Kentucky is forecast at 53.8 million bushels, up 29 percent from 2002. The yield estimate of 43 bushels is a record high. Harvesting of late-planted and double-cropped soybeans continues with reports of good quality and little frost damage.

In contrast, many U.S. soybean farmers are suffering through a poor year and the total U.S. crop could be the smallest since 1996.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Jim Herbek 270-365-7541 ext. 205