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Long wait for rain - Roy Smith

08/03/2012 @ 2:52pm

My column was missing last week, because my family was on vacation in the Branson, Missouri area. It was the first time all ten of us have vacationed together. What a refreshing time it was. I wish I could say that we enjoyed the cool weather, while there. Unfortunately, it was even hotter and drier there than at home, while we were gone. Driving from Kansas City to Springfield, I did not see a single field of corn that was green. Even the soybeans had started to turn brown in many fields. The pastures looked more like parking lots than places for cattle to graze. 

I felt a little better when I got home that at least some of our corn was still green and the beans were still alive. Brome fields are not growing but at least they still have some color. I saw one fied of corn near Bolivar being harvested for silage. I suspect that many more will follow. 

Today was the monthly farmer’s breakfast meeting at the local café in Plattsmouth. A local agronomist was our guest. One of the popular topics of conversation was the possibility of getting some of the new drought tolerant corn seed to plant for next year. He warned that supplies will probably be limited and that response to the drought gene would not be like the response to the glyphosate resistance gene. 

I decided before the meeting that it would be a good idea to scout my own fields to see how they had fared, after my being gone for a week. I estimate that about three out of four stalks of corn have already turned brown. The remaining stalks look green and healthy. No doubt there will be some corn to harvest. I suspect that the test weight will be low.    

The soybean fields look better, superficially. There are many pods and blooms. However, a high percentage of the pods will abort if there is no rain soon. In addition, the beans are quite variable in height and will be difficult to harvest, if they do not grow some more. I had experience in harvesting ultra-short soybeans in 1995. It is a frustrating situation. I refrain from estimating yields on soybeans, because that is a difficult task in the best of times. Substantial rains in the next two weeks would help the soybean yields considerably. 

Grain prices flounder around from day-to-day, having as much problem judging the yield potential as farmers. It is past time for a change of weather to help the corn crop in a big way. Even the soybeans, which rescued farmers financially in 1974 and 1977, face a big challenge in making up lost yield potential. In the two years mentioned, the rains began around the first week of August. As I write this, the weather forecast for eastern Nebraska is for a good chance of rain this weekend. I wonder if it is false hope and how long we really are going to have to wait for precipitation that will be substantial enough to do the crops some good.

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