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Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Sweltering heat could cut corn yields

July 11, 2001

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Corn is silking in the area, and a recent sweep of 100-degree temperatures threatens to cut into yields for Douglas County's second-most lucrative crop, said Bill Wood, agriculture agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County.

Before the heat wave, county farmers might have expected to reap about $4 million from this year's corn harvest, Wood said. Now, continued heat could cut yields by 10 percent to 30 percent.

"It's basically the farmer's paycheck," Wood said Tuesday. "That's the way farmers live. Whatever they sell -- be it corn, soybeans, maybe some cattle -- when they sell that, then that's their paycheck.

"If a farmer has a bad year, it's like you and I having our boss cut our paychecks in half. That's what happens -- it hammers us.

"If nature hammers the crop, and cuts his yield in half, that cuts his paycheck in half. And that's no fun."

During the critical silking process, which is part of the crop's fertilization, prolonged temperatures above 90 degrees can cut into yields, said Scott Staggenborg, crops and soils specialist for K-State Research and Extension in northeast Kansas.

Silking corn also is particularly susceptible to heat stress, he said.

"When you consider that, right now, final ear size is being determined, and that the final kernel number is determined seven to 14 days after pollination, it (hot weather) can have a big impact on yield," Staggenborg said. "You're probably not going to see the symptoms right away. It will likely take a few weeks."

Last year, Wood said, farmers planted about 26,000 acres of corn in Douglas County; the fall harvest ended up raking in about $4 million.

Wood expects a similar outcome this fall, but the recent heat wave could cool his optimism.

"If we had one or two 100-degree days, we can live with that," Wood said, but cautioned that searing temperatures for a week or more -- particularly with moisture running dry -- could lead to trouble.

"It's happened before, and it'll happen again. It gets hot in July."

-- Business editor Mark Fagan can be reached at 832-7188.

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