September 9, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman

While recent rains helped alleviate some drought conditions, it came too late for the state’s corn crop and much of its tobacco patches. Only soybeans may have profited from showers that came prior to and with Hurricane Katrina.

In a year when yields are already suffering, farmers are heading into the harvest facing the likelihood of more downed cornstalks, which slows the harvest and can result in additional lost yield, said Chad Lee, an Extension plant and soil scientist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

The moist, cooler conditions can also encourage stalk diseases, which could further deteriorate the stalks. That means farmers may have to harvest corn when the grain is wetter and, therefore, incur more drying costs.

“With the price of fuel going up, it’s not a good situation,” Lee said. “With the corn already under severe drought stress, it’s a bad situation.”

In Kentucky’s tobacco fields, some crops have already been harvested. For some farmers, rains came earlier than expected, forcing them to leave tobacco already cut but not yet put in barns out through several days of rain. That tobacco could sustain rot damage and mud splatters, said Gary Palmer, UK tobacco specialist. What impact that will have on the crop’s salability is something growers will have to address with their contract companies, he said.

Some tobacco still standing in the fields has blown over because rains loosened the roots, allowing them to be more susceptible to the winds that accompanied the remnants of Hurricane Katrina as it made its way through the state.

This is the second time some of these fields have sustained wind damage, said Andy Bailey, a UK tobacco specialist located in west Kentucky. Remnants of Hurricane Dennis also pushed tobacco over, resulting is some crooked stalks as the plants tried to right themselves.

Palmer said that moisture is needed during the curing process so additional rainfalls will be helpful in that process. Also, any tobacco that had just been topped and still had a few weeks to grow before harvest may have benefited from the recent rains.

Writer: Laura Skillman  270-365-7541 ext. 278


Contact: Chad Lee, 859-257-3203
Gary Palmer, 859-257-8667
Andy Bailey, 270-365-7541 ext. 240