Corn crop facing drought issues
Drought is not a new issue for Nebraska corn producers, but a lack of rain and hot weather has caused worsening conditions for many farmers across Nebraska. 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 rated 7 percent of the crop rated excellent, 55 percent was rated as good, 31 percent was rated in the fair category, and 7 percent in the poor category.
This time last year, the report rated the crop as 76 percent good to excellent, 19 percent being fair and 5 percent poor to very poor. The average is 78 percent.
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.
“The numbers continue to show a decrease for the good to excellence for the U.S. corn crop. The eastern side got a good rain so that helped to improve things, but as we go west it gets worst. Those that have the opportunity to irrigate look pretty good,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, Director of Research for the Nebraska Corn Board.
According to the Nebraska Weather and Crops report released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office on June 18, “above normal temperatures coupled with little or no precipitation across northern and western areas continued to stress crops and pastures. However, rain across the southeastern quarter of the state brought some relief to that area.”
The report also stated that “temperatures averaged 2 degrees below normal in the Northeast and East Central Districts while other areas averaged 2 degrees above normal. Highs reached triple digits in portions of the west and mainly 90s elsewhere. Lows were in the mid to upper 40s. Significant amounts of rain fell in the South Central, East Central and Southeast Districts with many areas receiving 1-3 inches. Little to no precipitation was recorded across the remaining areas of the state.”
Roughly 58 percent of the Nebraska corn crop is under irrigation, so those crops are doing well for now. However, the corn is reaching a critical time period for water, so those that raise dryland corn are having issues and could see significant decreases in yield.
“We are getting into a critical time as we work east to west. We are seeing some tassels now, so the crop is getting to the point where it will use the most moisture that it uses all season. Where we see the big struggles is the dryland. It’s a bad time to be stressed,” Brunkhorst said.
The hot weather during the day is continuing into the night. “As we see the hot days and hot evenings, it doesn’t give the corn crop a chance to rest. It continues to respirate, and it’s working all the time,” he said.
He continued, “If we don’t get rain we will see a significant impact on the dryland portion.”
This hot, dry weather has caused the crop ratings to go down not only in Nebraska, but also nationally, causing panic among buyers. This in turn causes 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.
“With the corn crop that continues to be a little bit ahead of where we normally are at, lack of moisture and a drought that shows an increasing affect it shows a rally in the corn markets,” said Brunkhorst.
This jump in corn prices led to the closure of two ethanol plants. Nebraska-based NEDAK Ethanol shut down its plant in Atkinson, and Valero shut down a plant in Albion. Both of these plants did so within a week of each other. Both plants did so due to shrinking margins.
Depending on what happens, the price of corn may continue to stay high. For those farmers who have dryland acres, rainfall will be essential. If rainfall does not occur, those farmers may be forced to cut their corn crops for silage so they can get some production off of their fields.
“It may possibly be because of the drought stress that it will be cut for silage earlier. Depending on how stressed the crop is, it may come to the point where it becomes abandoned acres. That’s down the road though, and depends on what happens,” Brunkhorst said.
He added, “There are a lot of ways you can look at this, but the outcome is that long term it’s not good.”
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