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Relentless heat lowers forecast for state's crops

  • Associated Press
  • Published Friday, August 12, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.

Another month of scorching heat and drought dealt a heavy beating to the outlook for Kansas crops, a new government forecast shows.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service estimated Thursday in its monthly crop production forecast that the size of the state's corn crop would come in at 495 million bushels, down 15 percent from last year.

"The August crop report obviously isn't very uplifting reading for Kansas," said Sue Schulte, spokeswoman for the Kansas Corn Growers Association. "It shows reductions for Kansas across the board."

That downgraded forecast comes even though Kansas farmers planted 5.1 million corn acres this spring — more than at any time since 1936. But much of the corn acreage was devastated after another month of triple-digit temperatures during a critical stage of development.

The revised forecast for harvested acres is down to 4.5 million acres, meaning 300,000 acres were lost in just the past month when compared to the forecast issued in June.

With the extreme dryness and extreme heat this past month in Kansas, many of those acres are being cut and chopped up as silage for livestock feed, Schulte said.

"The dry weather was there, but then it spread. It got larger and then that heat came in behind it," she said. "That is not a very good combination for anything that wants to grow."

At this rate, Kansas growers are anticipated to actually harvest 150,000 fewer acres than they harvested last year.

The other part of the equation for the forecast is expected yields that are running an average of 15 bushels lower than a year ago. The new forecast yield averages of 110 bushels per acre would be the lowest since 1983.

The outlook for other crops:

* Sorghum production is forecast at 123.8 million bushels, down 28 percent from a year ago. This would be the lowest sorghum production in the state since 1983.

* Anticipated soybean production of 100.1 million bushels is also down 28 percent from last year. It would be the smallest soybean crop in Kansas since 2007.

* Unchanged is the estimate of 273 million bushels of winter wheat harvested in Kansas. The forecast is unchanged from last month, but is down 24 percent from last year's crop to make this harvest the smallest since 2002.

* Alfalfa hay production at 1.95 million tons is down 21 percent. That is the lowest production since 1956. Other hay production at 2.85 tons is down 12 percent from last year, tying with 2000 for the lowest production since 1994.

* Cotton production is expected total 63,000 bales, down 23 percent.

Schulte took some solace on the possibility that there is still a lot of grain sorghum left that could still benefit from recent rains and more reasonable temperatures.

"That crop may not be done," she said.

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