Rains could make 2004 ‘Year of the Row Crop’

Thanks to plentiful moisture over the past month, this may be the year of grain sorghum and soybeans in this area-and most observers predict it’s almost certainly the year of old king corn.

Those observers predict the best corn crop in at least 10 years, whether it’s short-season corn or long-season corn.

The wheat that put the most money in the pockets of Marion County crop farmers the past several dry years had its harvest interrupted this summer by repeated rainfall. Those rains have fields of other crops lush.

Nothing beats the way the corn looks locally, or the local excitement about the prospects of having a huge crop.

“It’s going to be tremendous, just tremendous,” said Mike Thomas, manager of the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator at Marion.

“There’s a lot more corn planted around here than last year-600 acres more that I can think of right off. And the corn is pretty much made with the rains we’ve had now.”

The persistent 100-degree days so common over the past few years have been absent in 2004, enabling the corn to tassel and silk in the pollination process critical to high yields.

Thomas said CG&S is clearing out the 200,000-bushel wheat crop it received-and any other grain it can ship to terminals-to clear the 470,000-bushel facility for the corn crop “down to the last inch.”

Thomas predicted a lot of corn yields, including upland fields, could be in the 140- to 150-bushels-an-acre range, “and even better on bottom fields or irrigated.”

He said he would look for some yields of 200 bushels an acre or better.

When harvested corn begins arriving in August, Thomas said he looks for it to turn into a deluge for the elevator.

“With today’s big trucks and combines, they can pile it on you in a hurry,” he said.

Stan Utting, manager of Agri Producers Inc. at Tampa, cautioned that it should be a good corn crop “if nothing happens to it.” Wind, hail, flood or other calamities can still arise.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged, “there’s going to be more corn than last year,” and his elevators are shipping out other grain by railroad as quickly as they can.

Sue Schulte, communications director for the Kansas Corn Growers Association at Garnett, has been traveling the state. She took special note when she came through Marion County because the spring-planted crops, and especially her favorite concern, corn, “all looked very good.”

Schulte said she was feeling the plight of some crop producers in the western third of Kansas who still suffer dry, windy, hot drought, so it was uplifting to return to where the rains came.

“I think a lot of growers are feeling very optimistic,” Schulte said. “This year started out with the drought looking like it would continue-not a very rosy picture. We’ve had a multi-year drought, and a lot of growers were seeing it continue.

“Then we had the continuous rains through the early spring, so now we’re hoping for a big crop. Still, it will take a while for these guys to recover.

“The corn price is holding so far even with improved predictions,” Schulte added. Corn prices across the state have ranged from $2.20 in her area in the southeast to $2.60 a bushel at Garden City.

She said that according to updated state agricultural statistics, the Kansas corn yield this year should be good.

Thomas noted it may be difficult for some farmers who are still trying to get wheat harvested to take much joy in good-looking fall crops. He said some farmers in the Topeka area have unharvested wheat now sprouted in the heads. It will be good only for animal feed.

“Wheat usually will take a lot of punishment, and still be good,” he said.

Most farmers in this area had average to good wheat yields.

The wheat harvest will be followed next month by the corn harvest, and then by milo and soybean harvests. Even some of the earlier-planted milo might already “be made” by the rains as it is enters the head stage.

For the rest of the milo and the soybeans, even though they look good, more rain will be needed to boost yields.

“If they catch any rain the middle of August, the beans should be good,” Thomas said.

“The past couple of years we’ve had potential 60-bushel-yield pods on the beans. Soybeans usually have looked good up until now. What we got without rain was shrunken beans in those pods that yielded maybe 25 bushels.

“But if we get the rain when the pods are filling, they might not be too bad. You never know with the beans. But we do know this was the year to plant corn, no matter what kind.”

Corn prices are remaining steady even with the anticipated higher yield. But Thomas noted, “They usually are this time of year.”

Utting said even though the yields can’t be known ahead of time, “we’ll find out soon.”

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