INDIANAPOLIS – The nations worst drought in decades has taken a big toll on Indianas corn and soybean crops, with the states corn harvest expected to be nearly 30 percent less than last years haul, Purdue University agricultural experts said Friday.
Crop projections released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Indianas corn production is expected to be 605 million bushels – 28 percent less than last year– while the states soybean crop is projected to fall 22 percent to about 185 million bushels.
Purdue farm economist Chris Hurt said Indiana has been the hardest-hit of the big farm states in terms of its corn crop. Indiana corn farmers are expected to average 100 bushels an acre this year, he said. In comparison, Illinois, another drought-ridden state, is expected to average 116 bushels per acre.
Theyre obviously hit bad, but not as badly as us. We clearly are seeing the worst of it, Hurt said during a presentation at the Indiana State Fair.
Nationally, the federal government slashed its expectations for U.S. corn and soybean production for the second consecutive month Friday, predicting what could be the lowest average corn yield in more than 15 years.
The federal estimates released Friday are based on Aug. 1 crop conditions. They will be updated next month to reflect weather changes since then, such as late season rainfall that could boost the estimated yields before farmers begin harvesting their crops.
Hurt said that while this years average yield is expected to be 32 percent less than last years, its worse if compared to the 20-year average of 165 bushels per acre. Then, the drop is 40 percent.
Indianas soybean harvest is expected to average 37 bushels per acre, or 18 percent less than last year and 23 percent less than the 20-year average, he said.
Purdue corn specialist Bob Nielsen said if the federal crop estimates hold true into the fall, Indianas 100-bushel corn yield will be 38 percent lower than what farmers would expect in a normal year. He said that drop would represent the biggest such decline between actual yield and expected yield since the drought-stricken 1930s.
This is indeed unprecedented and if youve done any driving around the state youre certainly not surprised because it is pretty bad, he said.
A federal drought map shows that almost all of the state is in a severe drought. The southwestern corner is the hardest-hit, with rainfall running 10 or more inches below normal, Hurt said. Conditions in that area have been so bad some farmers have cut entire cornfields as feed for livestock because plants had withered and werent going to produce a crop. Overall, corn yields in that region are projected to be about 83 bushels per acre.
Thats exactly one half of a crop on average – its a dramatic statement, Hurt said.
But Purdue experts said the states two biggest crops could still benefit if recent rainfall thats brought some relief to parched fields continues.
Purdue soybean specialist Shaun Casteel said that soybeans, which are a later maturing crop, would see the most benefits from August rains.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a statement supplied exclusively to The Associated Press, insisted U.S. farmers and ranchers remain resilient and the country will continue to meet demand as the global leader in farm exports and food aid.
The U.S. Agriculture Department cut its projected U.S. corn production to 10.8 billion bushels, down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels and 13 percent less than last year. That also would be the lowest production since 2006.
The USDA, in its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, now expects corn growers to average 123.4 bushels per acre, down 24 bushels from last year in what would be the lowest average yield in 17 years.
Soybean production is now forecast at 2.69 billion bushels, a 12 percent decline from last year and well off the 3.05 billion bushels the USDA had expected last month. The expected average yield of 36.1 bushels per acre would be the lowest since 2003.
Corn farmers had expected a record year just months ago, when they sowed 96.4 million acres – the most since 1937. The USDA now predicts only 87.4 million acres will be harvested, although it notes the crop still could be the eighth-biggest in U.S. history. That is due in part to hardier corn varieties, which are better able to withstand drought and heat.
I have to be honest with you, Im totally stunned we have corn with green stalks and leaves after going through weeks of 105-degree temperature, said Garry Niemeyer, the National Corn Growers Associations president, who has 1,200 acres of corn and 800 acres of soybeans near Auburn, Ill.
He added, Our corn yield normally would be about 190 bushels per acre. This year, if I get 110 Id be thrilled to death.