Colorado corn struggles, wheat begins harvest early
Drought is not a new issue for producers, but a lack of rain and hot weather has caused worsening conditions for many farmers across Colorado. The issues are greater in the West than on the Eastern part of the state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report that recently came out on June 17, showed three percent of the crop rated as excellent, 62 percent was rated as good, 25 percent was rated in the fair category, seven percent in the poor category and 3 percent in the very poor category.
Nationally, 63 percent of the corn crop was rated good to excellent, 28 percent fair and 9 percent poor to very poor. A year ago ratings stood at 70 percent good to excellent, 23 percent fair and 7 percent poor to very poor.
“Some dryland corn looks decent, and some of it looks pretty rough. That’s because the rains we have had have been really spotty, and we’ve had a considerable amount of hail here South of Burlington. Fortunately it was early enough it will come back OK. It will just put it a little behind,” said Steve Scott, owner of Scott Farm Enterprises in Burlington, Colo.
He continued, “Some of the irrigated, especially those on small wells, the irrigation is not keeping up with the corn so there are a lot of people who are concerned. The hotter, the drier and the windier it is the more water the crop consumes. Given our limited availability to water in the dryland, it’s just not coming to a head. There will be some of it that will really need a drink fast.”
The combination of high heat and wind can be disaster for the corn crop. “If it’s anything like the drought we had before, the corn just begins to flash, which means its just runs out of water and it just shuts down and dries. Sometimes if it’s early enough you can cut it for silage, but usually you just have to abandon the field because it won’t make grain and won’t have enough for silage,” Scott said.
This hot, dry weather has caused the crop ratings to go down not only in Colorado, but also nationally, causing panic among buyers. This in turn caused the price of corn to jump significantly. Corn saw an increase of almost 20 cents a bushel on Monday, June 18, and another 30 cent per bushel raise on June 19. This is the largest two-day jump since October 2010.
The wheat crop is also seeing drying conditions. According to the Colorado Crop Progress Report by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service on June 18, 7 percent of the 2012 Colorado winter wheat crop was in excellent condition and 24 percent was in good condition. This is a one percent decline from last week over the two categories.
Thirty-six percent of the crop was rated as fair, 29 percent of the crop was rated as poor four percent was rated as very poor. Last year at this time, 39 percent of the crop was in good to excellent condition, with 24 percent very poor or poor.
USDA NASS reported crop condition for the 18 winter wheat states as 17 percent very poor to poor and 54 percent good to excellent. Harvest is 48 percent complete, compared to a five-year average of 16 percent.
According to the Colorado Crop Progress Report by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service on June 18, 7 percent of the 2012 Colorado winter wheat crop was in excellent condition and 24 percent was in good condition. This is a one percent decline from last week over the two categories.
The report also stated that, “The crop was 40 percent ripe, compared to the five-year average of eight percent. Harvest in Colorado was eight percent complete, compared to a five-year average of zero percent.”
Harvesting of the winter wheat crop is ahead of schedule this year, due to a warm spring. “It was so warm so early, and that really matures the crop. The crop really got with it, because it thought it was coming out of dormancy. It’s probably a good time it did because we didn’t have the moisture to finish it out,” said Scott.
He continued, “We had a lot of possible disease coming in from Oklahoma and Texas via the wind. For the first time ever I sprayed all of my leaf rust and stem rust. I believe that really helped us in the long run. Even though we didn’t get a lot of rain to finish the crop off, our yields are better than expected. There is a lot of variance in the production, between 15 and 65 bushels per acre. It just depends on the amount of moisture you got and the conditions when you put it in the ground.”
The drought monitor showed that drought conditions are increasing across Colorado, with the Western Slope being hit the hardest. Pasture and range conditions continue to decline. As of June 18, more than half of Colorado pasture and rangeland was rated as very poor or poor, with 18 and 40 percent respectively. Thirty percent of the land rates as fair, and just 12 percent is rated as good. There is no pasture or rangeland that rated as excellent in Colorado.