McGrath talks drought
Dean Adkins - Thu, 23 Aug 2012 17:06:29 CDT
(Atlantic)---It was 1988 and Clarke McGrath was just a young pup out of high school when a drought as severe as the one we're suffering through this year took hold and wreaked havoc on the crops and everything else susceptible to its oppressive heat and lack of moisture. Now twenty-four years later, McGrath, Extension Field Agronomy Manager with the ISU Corn-Soybean Initiative is enduring it again as he travels along the highways and byways of Southwest and Western Iowa, visiting with many discouraged farmers and landowners along the way.
At a recent drought webinar, McGrath learned that when it comes to early harvest decisions and yields this year, it's literally "field by field, hybrid by hybrid and area by area." And early returns as you might imagine are not good. Seventy to eighty bushels per acre yields are coming in and McGrath is hoping, as it is very early, that these will be on the bottom end of the final yield numbers.
McGrath says with today's genetics the corn plant is placing all of its energy into producing an ear, thus leaving the stalk vulnerable to weakness in a dry year. As a result, low stalk integrity means stalks are falling down in KMAland and farmers are faced with tough decisions as to how long to wait before they make the move to get the corn out. And as McGrath says, once it's out, then there's the decision to either move it or store it.
Low test weights on corn is another major concern right now as the kernels are shrunken and lighter because of the lack of available moisture during development. McGrath says farmers and elevators will really have to work together this year more than ever to see what can be done when it comes to blending and dealing with potential issues like aflatoxin. He also is reminding producers that low test-weight corn doesn't store very well so more vigilance will be needed to ensure the grain doesn't end up in worse shape than it is already.
As for soybeans, McGrath says the government is describing this year's crop as "shrinkled", a combination of shrunken and shriveled as the plant just didn't get adequate moisture for size, weight and pod development.
When it comes down to it, McGrath says it going to come down to "field by field and load by load" as he, his fellow ISU agronomists and farmers in KMAland continue to hope for the best as the combines will soon by rolling in full force in the harvest of 2012. For more information, call Clarke at 712-215-2146.