July 17, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

Kentucky's grain crops generally are in good condition, but adequate rainfall and moderate temperatures are needed in the next two weeks to keep them that way.

Most areas need moisture, said James Herbek, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service grains specialist. "It's getting right at the critical stage right now, especially for corn."

After a spring of persistent rains that delayed planting for many farmers, the spigot was turned off in much of the state's grain producing counties. Scattered showers have brought relief to some areas but others are still awaiting much needed rain.

Crops have been living off the surplus moisture the state received in the spring but now much of that has been used up. Topsoil and subsoil moisture is getting more on the short side every week. In the past month, most areas are at a deficit for rainfall but for the growing season, rainfall has been about normal.

Early planted corn has gotten through the pollination process pretty well but the late planted corn, which amounts to about half of this year's crop, is coming into pollination right now. Moisture and temperatures are critical for those crops for the next few weeks.

Temperatures have been averaging 4 to 5 degrees above normal and that can be detrimental to pollination, Herbek said. Moisture is needed to fill the kernels and moderate temperatures are needed at night to allow more of the photosynthetic energy to go into the ear. Hot nighttime temperatures do not result in efficient conversion of energy to fill the ear.

The state's soybean crop also looks good but adequate moisture will be critical for the plants in the next few weeks as they begin to set pods.

McLean County farmer Keith Ayer said they've had only two-tenths of an inch of rain in six weeks.

"The double crop soybeans are growing but the corn is really hurting especially the hill corn," he said. "The bottom ground doesn't look too bad but it needs rain too."

Ayer estimated that a good soaking rain would probably allow him to make 75 percent to 80 percent of the yield he would have expected under normal conditions.

In Union County, the state's top corn-producing county, rainfall has been in short supply. The corn crop in the county is silking and tasselling and could use rain, said Rankin Powell, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Union County.

"It has been about a month since we've had any significant rain," he said.

If rainfall comes soon, Union County will still see a decent corn crop, Powell said. The county has some advantages in that its soils hold moisture longer than other areas, he said. Also, most farmers were able to get their corn planted on a more timely basis than farmers in many other areas of the state. River bottomland was switched to soybeans or grain sorghum to avoid planting corn beyond optimum planting dates.

In neighboring Henderson County, a swath of land near the Daviess County line has gotten several timely showers but the remainder of the county remains dry. Henderson County is among the top three counties in both corn and soybean production in Kentucky.

Smith said farmers would very much like to see rain this week, and it is critical that they get some within the next two to three weeks.

"We are beginning to get dry," said Mike Smith, Henderson County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. "This crop was put in under less than ideal circumstances and it is showing it."

Contact: 

James Herbek, (270) 365-7541; Mike Smith, (270) 826-8387; Rankin Powell, (270) 389-1400