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Ugly Irene Made a Tough Year Tougher

Ugly Irene Made a Tough Year Tougher

Hurricane winds and flooding to add to late planting and drought losses on East Coast.

Hurricane Irene left a trail of broken trees, flooded buildings plus tons of ripe, ready-to-harvest dropped fruit up and down the East Coast. After rains of two to more than 10 inches, the deluge in river valleys from Virginia to Maine are still receding.

Federal Emergency Management Officials are already pegging the losses at more than $12 billion. That's not counting agricultural crop losses, which as Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer says probably won't be totally assessed until after harvest.

DON'T BLAME IRENE: Soybean blossoms and shriveled pods are due to high summer heat, and may temper final soybean yield projections.

Irene's winds proved whimsical, tangling and flatten corn in one spot and leaving other areas untouched. Corn already killed by drought on the Delmarva, for instance, suffered the most wind damage, but added little to yield losses.

The largest farm losses may have been in fruit orchards, as reported by Brad Hollabaugh of Hollabaugh Brothers Fruit Farm and Market, Biglerville, Pa. "The largest, most mature fruit fell of the trees. We estimate that about 20% of our fruit is on the ground."

Fruit tree damage varied widely, and even from orchard block to bock, reports Jim Schupp, director of Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center. Some farms were hardly touched. Others suffered fruit losses of 50%

Corn and soybean supplies likely to shrink

Aside of broken off stalk tops, statewide corn and soybean yields from Maryland to Maine probably won't be affected. They're already down substantially due to a late wet planting season and summer drought.

Crop condition reports by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of Aug. 29 don't reflect crop condition declines. That's likely to spell higher grain prices for meat and milk producers in the Northeast. Here's a quick look at the NASS assessment as of Monday:

Delaware: About 31% of the corn crop is in good to excellent condition, unchanged from the previous report. About 58% of soybeans rated good to excellent, compared to 45% previously reported. August yield projections wee 125 bushels of corn per acre, with total supplies up 15% over a year ago. Soybeans were forecasted at 32 bushels per acre, but with 16% less total beans compared to 2010.

Maryland: 37% of the corn crop rated good to excellent, compared to 32% previously reported. 50% of soybeans rated good to excellent, compared to 35% previously reported. Corn yields are projected to average 104 bushels per acre, with a total crop up 3% over last year. Soybean yields are projected at 30 bushels per acre, but a total crop of 16% less than in 2010.

New England: Corn crop condition was reported at 50% good to excellent. No yield forecast was made in August.

New Jersey: Corn and soybean crop conditions were not reported this week. But the August crop report projects the state's corn crop at 135 bushels per acre, with a total crop up 37%. The state's soybean crop is projected at 33 bushels per acre, with a total crop of 24% more than a year ago.

New York: The corn crop condition as of this week was 65% good to excellent, up from 55%. Soybeans were reported as 70% good to excellent, up from 57%. Corn yields were projected to average 130 bushels per acre, with total state production down 3% from 2010. Soybean yields are forecasted at 42 bushels per acre, with total production down 12% from 2010.

Pennsylvania: Corn crop condition was pegged at 49% good to excellent this week, up from 45%. Soybeans were rated 68% good to excellent, up from 61%. August corn yield projections came in at 112 bushels per acre, with a total crop 10% down from 2010. August soybean yields were estimated at 37 bushels per acre, with a total crop 15% down from a year ago.

What all this means

With the damage of Hurricane Irene, this year's projected corn and soybean crop sizes for these Northeast states are more likely to shrink than increase by harvest time. If so, that'll make the feedstuffs more expensive to acquire locally.

Another concern has been mentioned by soybean growers, and documented by field scouting. While soybean plants visually look good, this summer's heat aborted blossoms and pods and left far fewer pods to fill. That yield reduction may not be reflected in crop reports until harvest.

TAGS: USDA Soybean
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