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Published August 13, 2010, 09:06 AM

Kentucky corn, soybean yields expected to be down

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky farmers enduring a late-season blast of hot, dry weather are on course to fall short of last year’s record corn and soybean harvests, according to a government report.

By: Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky farmers enduring a late-season blast of hot, dry weather are on course to fall short of last year’s record corn and soybean harvests, according to a government report.

Statewide corn production was forecast at 167 million bushels, down 12 percent from last year’s record-high crop, according to a report Thursday from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Kentucky field office.

Corn yields are expected to average 138 bushels per acre, a drop-off from the record 165 bushels an acre a year ago.

The blistering heat has accelerated the crop’s maturity, and some farmers have begun harvesting corn early.

Union County farmer Randy Hagan started his corn harvest earlier than ever this week — about seven to 10 days sooner than usual. So far, his yields are down about 10 percent from a year ago but slightly better than his five-year average.

“This hot weather hasn’t helped us any,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Elsewhere in the same western Kentucky county, farmer Andy Sprague said his family’s top-producing corn field was averaging yields of about 175 bushels an acre, down about 25 bushels from recent years.

“It’s only going to go down from here,” he said.

Sprague blamed the lack of rain in recent weeks as “the biggest culprit” for expected lower yields this year, noting that the high-producing field being harvested had not received any substantial rainfall since early July.

As he talked, Sprague was keeping an eye on rain clouds dotting the horizon, hoping for a badly needed soaking that would boost his later-planted corn and his soybean crop.

The hot, dry weather has caused a “rapid deterioration” of his soybean crop, he said.

Last year, his soybeans averaged yields of about 65 bushels an acre; this year it could be 35 to 40 bushels.

“If we miss this rain today and don’t get one this weekend, this bean crop could be in serious jeopardy,” he said.

Statewide, soybean production is forecast at 53.8 million bushels, a 21 percent drop from last year’s record production, the government report said.

Soybean yields are pegged at 39 bushels per acre, down from the record 48 bushel average last year.

Meanwhile, burley tobacco production in Kentucky is expected to reach 136.5 million pounds, down 15 percent from a year ago, due to slightly lower expected yields and a drop in tobacco acreage.

Yield is projected at 2,100 pounds per acre, off 50 pounds from 2009. Kentucky is the nation’s top burley producer.

In Spencer County, the burley crop is looking good, said Bryce Roberts, the county agricultural extension agent.

“We’ve had good rain when we needed it and it looks like ... a very good crop,” he said. “I’m 6-foot tall, and I’ve seen some of it that’s going to be over my head. That’s a very good year.”

The corn and soybean crops also look good but are in need of rain, he said.

Meanwhile, production of Kentucky dark fire-cured tobacco is forecast at 28.9 million pounds, down 9 percent from a year ago. Dark air-cured tobacco production is projected at 13.9 million pounds, up slightly from last year.

The government report was based on crop prospects as of Aug. 1.

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