Dry conditions taking a toll on area crops

Thursday, May 31, 2012
The extremely dry conditions are requiring area farmers to rely upon irrigation and other treatments to protect their crops

Seriously dry conditions are being felt by area farmers and the effect of limited rainfall is now becoming a problem for many crops in the field.

Producers are keeping a watchful eye to the heavens, with the hope of rain later in the week. Numerous weather forecasts indicate an 80 percent chance for precipitation Thursday.

"We're hoping we get that one," Clay County Cooperative Extension Chair Andy Vangilder said of the need for rain. "It'd be a world of help to get that. It's been dry for a while now, and we need a good rain."

With wheat growers now in the fields harvesting their crops, the drought effects are being felt in yields which frequently have been less than hoped. According to Vangilder, yields among sand fields are typically ranging from the mid 30s to 40 bushels. Loamy dirt fields, which tend to soak up and collect water more efficiently, are yielding 50 to 70 bushels per acre. Much of the area's wheat has been harvested, with the majority of remaining producers expected to complete harvesting this week.

Thus far, the strongest crop on the eastern side of Clay County has been corn, with Vangilder calling it "the prettiest crop of corn I've seen in years." Mild conditions allowed farmers to get an early start planting their corn, with most fields surging ahead.

Irrigated corn has been thriving, with several fields expected to begin tasseling, part of the maturation process, in the next few days.

"Irrigated fields have had pretty good sub-soil moisture, which has helped the corn out a lot," Vangilder said. "The dry weather hasn't really hurt the irrigated fields, but it does start to take a toll on the farmers. Right now, the irrigated corn is looking great."

Vangilder said the dry conditions have hurt corn in sand fields, with dryland corn either already taking a hit in terms of growth or just now beginning to show signs in some less severe cases.

Thus far, the outlook hasn't been as good for the county's cotton crops. Vangilder said the early start for cotton, followed by the cool nights early, has hurt cotton fields up to this point. With the very early start for the wheat crops, the timing left cotton plants susceptible to thepsis, a disease which can affect both crops, as it was being cleared from wheat fields. Cold weather also helps thepsis take a hold on cotton, with the cooler-than-average evenings of recent weeks also playing a role in hindering the cotton crop, Vangilder said.

Still, producers have put in the effort and cotton is taking a turn for the better," Vangilder added.

"We've about got the thepsis cleared up now, and cotton is starting to shape up well for the most part. If we can get some moisture and some more good warm days, it should help out even more."

According to Vangilder, soybean crops are "all over the board" with some fields doing well and others struggling. As with other crops, a good dose of rain would go a long way toward helping area soybeans grow.

Vangilder said the few rice fields in the area are "coming along pretty well." He added most growers are currently in the process of flooding their fields in preparation.

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