Aug. 14, 2012 — Abnormally dry July weather in Rowan County has compromised some crops but Bob Marsh, county extension agent for agriculture, says this area was spared in comparison to Western Kentucky and neighboring Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
“A lot of the corn here in Rowan County tassled (produced pollen) after the real hot stretch,” Marsh said. “Therefore, pollination wasn’t bothered and the ears should make it.”
“I have been in some crops over the last couple of weeks that have looked pretty sorry partially due to the lack of rain in July and lack of fertilization,” he added.
Marsh said tobacco farmers in Rowan County were concerned last month.
“Tobacco sat with no growth during the drought,” he said. “But several growers have said once we got some rain the tobacco took off.”
According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Eastern Kentucky has been labeled as abnormally dry or with moderate drought conditions. Western Kentucky falls under the extreme to exceptional drought conditions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded July as the hottest month ever for the contiguous United States.
High temperatures, mixed with the drought, has caused massive damage to corn and soybean crops, causing the USDA to slash production expectations for the second month in a row.
The USDA said exactly half of the nation’s corn crop was rated poor to very poor and that some 39 percent of soybeans now fall under one of these two categories.
The depressed crop outlook has put rising pressure on food prices, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
With an expected 13 percent lower corn yield than produced in 2011, top officials at the United Nations have asked for an immediate temporary suspension of the U.S. biofuel mandate that requires 40 percent of the corn crop to be converted into ethanol.
The Renewable Fuel Standards requires U.S. fuel companies to ensure that nine percent of their gasoline is made up of ethanol.
With the rise in corn prices, meat producers are being forced to pay more for feed.
“Farmers raising cattle in the driest regions are being forced to sell cattle early because they cannot afford to feed and water them. The cattle market has taken a hit,” Marsh said.
Marsh said some local farmers were hit by wind storms in July that wiped out portions of their crops.
“I do not get a sense that hay or soybeans are in shortage in our county,” Marsh said. “High day/night temperatures cause poor pollination and have left local gardens with empty green bean vines and tomatoes with blossom end rot.”
Karen Woodrich, state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kentucky announced last week that $128,500 for drought assistance is available for counties rated with extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought conditions.
These counties include Ballard, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian, Crittenden, Davies, Fulton, Graves, Hancock, Henderson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, McLean, McCracken, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Todd, Trigg, Union and Webster.