Archive for Wednesday, July 30, 2003

White corn crop a ghostly sight for area farmers

July 30, 2003

White corn is something no farmer wants to see.

We're not talking tender white kernels fresh from the pot and lathered in butter.

Sadly, we're talking row upon row of corn so badly desiccated that from a distance the field looks white. Not green, not even yellow, but pale, ghostly white.

Bob Elder, a 74-year-old Lawrence resident who has farmed near Linwood all his life, has never seen it so bad.

"They're burning up," Elder said of his 55 acres planted to corn. "It's never turned white before to this extent. It's new to me, anyway."

Several weeks ago the area's corn crop was a beauty, Elder said But, he added, it's never wise to count your yields before harvest.

"My dad used to say years ago that it looks so good it scares me," Elder said, recalling his father's words when young crops had a strong start. "It looks like it's catching up with us."

Rick Abel, county executive director of Farm Service Agency, said the problem is worst right now in areas of sandy soil. This would include some of the fields planted in prime farmland, the Kaw River valley.

But across Leavenworth County, the problem is evident. And corn, which several weeks ago looked like it could produce bumper crop, is in sad shape.

"It's just a pretty widespread drought for our part of the state," Abel said. "We're going to have a lot of cornfields that will be a total loss."

The recent heat wave, with temperatures hovering in the high 90s and low 100s, has wreaked havoc with the crop's potential. This follows the summer of 2002, in which corn suffered in the drought.

It's last year's drought that is compounding the problem, Abel said.

"I doubt that we're in as good of shape as we were this time last year, which is sad to say, because last year was not a good year," Abel said. "We don't have any subsoil moisture after last year."

The county's 2002 wheat crop made yields of 20 to 30 bushels to the acre, which Abel said was bad.

But Abel, who noted that Sunday night's clouds went right on by without leaving a drop of rain, said this year's yields could be worse.

"This year we could have some areas that just don't raise anything," Abel said. "For farmers it's another big input dollar year where your return is nothing."

This of course has a domino effect.

"When you get two years back to back, it's really tough to recover from that," Abel said. "It takes a long time to recover."

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