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Dry, hot weather hits Kentucky crops

Much of Kentucky continues to be affected by extreme drought conditions, causing crop prospects to deteriorate during late summer, according to the Sept. 12 report from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Corn yields managed to hold steady during August, but dry soil conditions and extreme temperatures caused soybean and tobacco yields to decrease.

By Sept. 1, corn harvested for grain in the Bluegrass State was almost one-quarter complete, while burley tobacco cutting was more than 50 percent finished.

Corn for grain production by Kentucky farmers was forecast in September at 160.8 million bushels, unchanged from the August estimate and up 6 percent from the 2006 production. The larger 2007 production was due to an increase in harvested acreage as yield per acre was lower.

Harvested for grain acreage at 1.34 million acres was up 300,000 acres from 2006 and would be the largest corn crop in 21 years. Yield per acre was forecast at 120 bushels per acre, unchanged from August while down 26 bushels from last year.

In some areas of Kentucky, the corn yield was cut in half by dry conditions while in other areas, adequate rainfall produced good yields.

As of Sept. 2, 96 percent of the crop was in the dent stage, 81 percent of the crop was mature, and 23 percent had been harvested. Harvesting of the 2007 corn crop was ahead of 2006 and the five year average.

The U.S. corn production was forecast at 13.3 billion bushels, up 2 percent from August and 26 percent above 2006. Based on conditions as of Sept. 1, yields were expected to average 155.8 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from August and 6.7 bushels above last year. If realized, this would be the second highest yield on record, behind the 160.4 bushel yield in 2004.

Production would be the largest on record as growers expect to harvest the most corn acres for grain since 1933.

Kentucky soybean production was forecast at 34.2 million bushels, down 21 percent from the August forecast and 43 percent from the 2006 crop. The smaller 2007 crop was the result of both fewer acres harvested and a lower yield. Harvested acreage at 1.14 million acres was down 230,000 acres from a large 2006 crop.

Soybean yield per acre was estimated at 30 bushels per acre, down eight bushels from August. Soybean development (setting pods, turning yellow and shedding leaves) was ahead of both last year and the five-year average.

The lack of precipitation during the critical weeks of pod-filling has resulted in a poor crop. Many second crop soybeans fields, planted following the wheat harvest, will yield very poorly. Poor yielding fields, both full season and second crop, may be cut for hay.

U.S. soybean production was forecast at 2.62 billion bushels, down slightly from the August forecast and down 18 percent from last year's record high. Based on September conditions, yields were expected to average 41.4 bushels per acre, down 0.1 bushel from August and down 1.3 bushels from last year.

Burley tobacco production by Kentucky farmers was forecast at 146.3 million pounds, a decrease of 5 percent from the August forecast and last year's production. Acreage for cutting and housing was up 4,000 acres from the 2006 crop at 77,000 acres. Burley tobacco yield at 1,900 pounds per acre was down 100 pounds from the August estimate.

A hot and dry August severely limited tobacco growth. Crops not mature by early August were unable to add additional leaf weight. Most good yielding tobacco matured early or was grown on irrigated acreage.

Blue mold detected during the growing season was limited by dry weather conditions while some black shank has been reported.

Production for the burley-producing states totaled 197.5 million pounds, down 6 percent from the August forecast and 9 percent below last year.

Yields were expected to average 1,878 pounds per acre, 128 pounds below the August forecast and down 217 pounds from a year ago.

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