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Published August 17, 2010, 01:29 PM

Despite heat, record Kansas corn crop likely

TURON, Kan. — For some Kansas farmers, this year’s fall harvest will be either feast or famine.

By: Amy Bickel, The Hutchinson News

TURON, Kan. — For some Kansas farmers, this year’s fall harvest will be either feast or famine.

Sure, Kansas is looking to become a corn state, with farmers expected to harvest the biggest corn crop ever with 692.2 million bushels, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. Moreover, some of the state’s elevators could bin more corn than the state’s staple crop of wheat this year.

At Haw Ranch Feedlot near Turon, employees began cutting the feedlot’s corn for silage the middle of last week - about two weeks earlier than usual, said manager Mike Holley. The silage was drier than he would have liked - running at 62 percent moisture - about 10 percent lower than he would like.

“The heat has advanced everything,” he said.

That also includes harvest of high-moisture corn and dryland corn. A few combines circled Reno County fields Thursday and Friday last week. Holley, however, said his feedlot wasn’t taking wet corn until today.

A Rice County producer cut 150 acres of dryland corn Saturday that averaged 15.4 percent moisture. Meanwhile, rains across south-central Kansas Sunday will halt harvest for a few days and give some reprieve to crops still maturing.

The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service also reported last week that fall crop conditions continue to decline because of the heat and lack of moisture. The corn crop, 15 percent ahead of the five-year average, is rated as 9 percent poor, 28 percent fair and 63 percent good to excellent by the KASS. About 60 percent of the soybeans and milo are estimated at good to excellent.

“There are some areas where the corn is burning up and the grain sorghum is showing signs of intense heat stress,” said Kent Martin, a southwest Kansas agronomist with Kansas State University Research and Extension. “What hurt us the worst with a lot of these crops, when we were pollinating a lot of these crops it was in the 100-degree weather.”

The heat stress could mean lower test weights, he said.

While some corn and grain sorghum crops are hanging on, Martin noted soybeans are suffering.

Tom Giessel, who farms in Pawnee County, said the last decent rain came Fourth of July weekend when his fields received 1.40 inch. A sporadic rain left about a half inch on some fields mid-July.

“But we’re going a month now without rain combined with 100-degree temperatures and scalding winds,” he said.

Other areas are “looking good,” Martin said. That includes areas of northwest Kansas that received rainfall throughout the summer.

Reports from farmers in northwest and areas of west-central Kansas are that yields could reach upward of 130 bushels an acre for dryland corn.

“It’s looking like a good fall harvest, thanks to the rain,” said Duane Schneider, who farms in Greeley County. “The heat in July didn’t help, but it seemed like we had enough rain that we kept it going.”

Some areas of Greeley County received 3 inches of rain the first week of August while most of the state remained dry, KASS reported.

Giessel said he planted his corn crop earlier, which should help him harvest a decent corn crop. And Joe Schauf, general manager of the Nickerson-based Farmer’s Coop, said most of his territory’s crop also was planted early enough that, despite the excessive heat, yields should still be higher.

In fact, he said, there is a good chance the cooperative will take in more corn than wheat.

The 2010 Kansas wheat crop is pegged at 369 million bushels. Farmers are expected to reap a record 692.2 million bushels of corn, which would surpass last year’s record crop of 598.3 million bushels, according to KASS.

With an extended fall harvest from an usually wet fall, and too wet of conditions to plant wheat, Kansas farmers planted 4.7 million acres in corn this spring, the highest planted acreage for corn in the state since 1936, the agency reports.

“We’ll take in quite a bit of corn this year - more than normal,” Schauf said. “And I’m not sure that isn’t going to continue with the new varieties of corn that are more drought-tolerant.”