Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Corn losses tallied at $2.5 million

September 10, 2003

First the drought hit area fields.

Now it's hitting the area's economy.

Rick Abel, Leavenworth County executive director of Farm Service Agency, estimated that this year's corn yields will be about half that of normal, which translates into a $2.5 million strike against the county's economy.

About 20,000 acres of Leavenworth County farmland were planted to corn.

"On a good year with 20,000 acres, if you could produce 110 bushels on the average at $2.40 per bushel, you'd be looking at bringing in about $5 million," Abel said.

Unfortunately, the summer's drought virtually destroyed other late crops as well.

"If you throw soybeans in there too and the little bit of milo we got, it's much more significant," Abel said.

By the time the late August rains fell, it was too late to save the county's 45,000 acres of soybeans.

"You're looking at normally a $10 million bean crop for the county," Abel said. "We'll probably be lucky to make $3 million this year."

In June, the corn looked beautiful. Lush thick green rows of corn lined roadways and provided plenty of ears for home-cooked meals.

Then, in late July after a month with no rain, the drought-stricken corn stalks turned white. With little hope of a decent harvest, many farmers chopped the desiccated corn plants for silage.

And after late August rains drenched fields with six inches of water, a fungus struck, turning cornstalks, and everything that touches the fields, black.

Despite the dust that swells in thick black clouds around combines harvesting what's left, there is a crop, although smaller than expected.

It could have been worse, Abel said.

"I think Leavenworth County is probably better off than Atchison County," Abel said. "The western half of Atchison County is just about a wasteland."

Leon Stites, Leavenworth County extension agent, said the 50- to 100-bushel yields aren't what they could have been.

"In this part of the country, if you're running 155 to 175 bushels, it would be a pretty good corn year," Stites said.

Of the fungus striking the crops, Stites said it won't damage the kernels.

"At this point, it really doesn't hurt anything, except to make it messy to harvest," said Stites, who has been out checking corn in the fields. "In the field I was in, you couldn't even see the combine for all the dust coming upon you. Most of that dust is mold spores."

Jim Grinter, who farms near Reno, has seen yields ranging from 50 bushes to 90 and 100 per acre.

"If you planted early maturing corn, you've got some fairly decent corn," he said. "If you planted a full season corn, it's not yielding very well. It just wasn't as far along as the early maturing corn was when it died."

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