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Archive for Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Report confirms county crop yields well below average

March 18, 2003

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A report by the Kansas Department of Agriculture made official what Douglas County farmers have known since last fall -- 2002 was a tough year for area crops.

State agriculture officials recently released their annual report detailing the average county yields for the state's four major crops.

In Douglas County, the results showed yields for three of the crops were well below average.

Soybeans, the county's most heavily planted crop, were hit the hardest by the 2002 drought. County farmers produced an average yield of 22 bushels per acre, compared with the average of 33 bushels, a decline of 33 percent.

Yields for corn, the county's No. 2-planted crop, were off 31 percent. Corn crops in the county produced an average yield of 75 bushels per acre versus an average 108 bushels per acre.

The county's milo crop had yields that were reduced by 26 percent, with an average 59 bushels per acre compared with 80 bushels per acre.

Wheat, which is the most drought-resistant of the four crops, fared better. It averaged 40 bushels an acre, which is near its average yield of 41 bushels per acre.

Statewide averages for the crops were 23 bushels for soybeans, 116 for corn, 45 for milo and 33 for wheat.

Bill Wood, the county's agriculture extension agent, said the numbers continued a rough three-year stretch for area farmers.

"We haven't had what you would call a good year -- one that would really make farmers smile -- for quite a few years now," Wood said.

Wood estimated that yields for the county's two major crops, corn and soybeans, had been below average for two of the past three years.

"We're probably at the point where the bad years are starting to add up for some," Wood said.

The bad years, though, haven't yet produced a large number of Douglas County farmers exiting the business, said Bob Rhoton, a lender with the Lawrence office of Frontier Farm Credit.

"There isn't a lot of income in farming right now, but there doesn't seem to be an exodus going on either," Rhoton said. "The thing in Douglas County is you have a lot of part-time farmers, who realized several years ago that they have to have another income source."

Despite recent rains, Wood said the county remained drier than farmers would like. The Lawrence area received only 24 inches of precipitation in 2002, compared with an annual average of about 40 inches. Thus far in 2003, the area has received about 2 inches of precipitation. That's about 2 inches short of where the area should be, according to 6News weather forecaster Ross Janssen.

"We've got some moisture in the topsoil now, but our subsoil is still dramatically short," Wood said.

Janssen said some relief might be in sight. He expects the area to receive up to 2 inches of rain through early Thursday.

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