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Corn crop desperate for water

July 28, 2012
Kylie Saari - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Temperatures may be dropping and rain is in the forecast, but the damage could be done.

David Meschke, a crop adjuster with Rural Community Insurance Service, said corn in Martin County isn't a total loss, but it isn't out of the woods either.

"Martin County itself looks pretty good," he said, "but you don't have to go very far to have it not [look good]."

Article Photos

MIGHTY?DRY?— Corn is drying out in the field much earlier than usual. This field is in Martin County.

The Fairmont area has been in and out of drought in the three short months since the crop was planted. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says southern Martin County is in severe drought and northern Martin County is in moderate drought.

At the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, soil moisture levels are less than half the historic average for this time of year, and what moisture remains is almost all at a depth of more than three feet.

"At this time there is still a significant amount of corn where pollination was successful and plant tissue is green," said Lizabeth Stahl, Extension educator in crops. "With adequate moisture, these plants will be able to continue photosynthesizing, and kernel development will continue. Continued drought stress, however, will lead to increased kernel abortion and reduced yield potential."

The problem for farmers is deciding whether it is more beneficial to cut down the corn for use as feed or to wait it out and see if it rains.

"Usually we get a rain or two," Meschke said. "It just seems like all the rains have been going around us. ... Every day it doesn't rain lowers yield potential. "

"If kernel growth is occurring and green leaf tissue remains," Stahl said, "waiting to harvest will allow more dry matter accumulation in the grain, resulting in increased forage yield and quality. If the plant is barren or dead, plants should be harvested when the correct moisture for storage is reached."

Meschke has not heard of anyone in Martin County giving up just yet, but neighboring counties have seen farmers throwing in the towel.

"I have not heard that yet in Martin County," he said, "but that does not mean it is not going to happen. ... They are trying to salvage their crops."

What has Meschke most concerned is the high cost of corn caused by the drought losses.

"High grain prices aren't good for livestock," he said. "This volatility isn't good for crop or livestock. With Martin County having as many hogs as are produced, this is a serious issue."

The average corn price in June was $6.25 per bushel, up from $3.41 in June 2010.

According to the USDA, the drought isn't just a problem for livestock. It will affect food prices as well.

The Economic Research Service with the USDA reported, "We will likely see impacts within two months for beef, pork, poultry and dairy (especially fluid milk). The full effects of the increase in corn prices for packaged and processed foods (cereal, corn flour, etc.) will likely take 10-12 months to move through to retail food prices."

 
 

 

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