September 18, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

Kentucky’s grain crops are moving from field to bin but lack of moisture and hot temperatures are resulting in low yields in many areas.

Corn for grain production by Kentucky farmers is forecast at 110.2 million bushels, down 29 percent from the 2001 crop, according to the crop report issued Sept. 12 by the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service. The yield is estimated at 104 bushels per acre, down 6 bushels from the August estimate and 38 bushels per acre less than last year. The average yield in 2000 was 130 bushels per acre and 105 bushels in 1999.

This year has been a mixed bag of weather conditions starting with a wet spring that delayed planting in some areas of the state. That wet spring turned into a hot, dry summer on most farms yet some areas saw timely rains and are seeing good yields.

The 2002 summer was the 11th hottest and 18th driest June, July and August in the past 108 years with less than 10 inches of rainfall received across the state, according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Agricultural Weather Center.

Henderson County is one of the top corn producing counties in the state but this year isn’t one of its better ones.

“Yields are all over the board,” said Mike Smith, Henderson County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. “Honestly, I think if a producer can break even this year, they are doing pretty well.”

Henderson and neighboring Daviess County saw most of their corn planted late because of the wet spring. What was planted early is yielding pretty well, but that amounts to only about 10 percent of the acres.

Soybeans really needed a rain about three to four weeks ago, Smith said. That would have helped about 60 percent of the crop. Instead, rains this weekend may help a few fields with pod fill.

In Hancock County, corn averaged 152 bushels per acre in 2001, 142 bushels per acre in 2000, and 102 in 1999. This year, they are expecting to average about 100 bushels, said Diane Perkins, Hancock County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

Farmers in Hopkins County are just beginning to harvest their corn but the yields so far aren’t promising. At least one farmer has opted to cut his corn for cattle feed rather than harvest it for grain, said George Kelley, Hopkins County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. The farmer plans to bale a few rolls representative of his field and have them tested for potential nitrate problems before baling the entire field.

The county’s corn average is 105 bushels per acre, but farmers are saying it will be more in the 75 to 85 bushel range this year, he said. Soybeans will be lucky to average 30 bushels per acre, Kelley said. But some of the later planted beans may see some benefit from this past weekend’s rains.

With the dry conditions, the crop has dried down quickly and approximately 40 percent of the corn has been harvested in the state.

In Trigg County nearly 75 percent of the corn has been harvested and yields may be down a little, but overall are pretty good and in some spots excellent, said Jason P’Pool, Trigg County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

P’Pool said most farmers have been able to plant on a timely basis and generally have gotten needed rain showers, although that is not true throughout the county.

“A few miles direction made a difference in the amount of rains we were getting,” he said.

Rains were spotty in Todd County, but most farmers got some showers that helped their crops, said Curt Judy, Todd County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. He said yields will be decent. Soybeans as well languished through a dry June and July, but the county saw rain showers in August that appear to have helped the crop.

Soybeans in the state are expected to yield 30 bushels to the acre, down 10 bushels per acre than they did in 2001. Soybean production for Kentucky is forecast at 36.3 million bushels.