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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kansas' fall harvest forecast sinks lower

BY ROXANA HEGEMAN
Associated Press

The latest government forecast of the size of the Kansas fall harvest paints an even more dismal picture than last month's estimate.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service on Wednesday projected corn production in the state at 451.5 million bushels, or 22 percent smaller than last year's crop and down 4 percent from the September forecast.

Their updated forecast comes despite the fact that Kansas farmers planted 4.9 million acres of corn — 50,000 acres more than a year ago. But many of those acres were abandoned as an unrelenting drought and a record-breaking string of triple-digit temperatures decimated fields. The October forecast estimated just 4.3 million of those corn acres to be actually harvested.

Besides the fewer acres, another factor in the lower numbers is that corn yields are down.

The average corn yield in Kansas is now pegged at 105 bushels an acre. That is 20 bushels an acre less than the yield in 2010. If the estimate holds up, that would make it the lowest corn yield in the state since 1983.

The outlook also predicts a more modest harvest of the other major crops in the state:

* Soybean production was forecast 102.6 million bushels, down 26 percent from last year.

* Grain sorghum crops were expected to bring in 129.3 million bushels, down 24 percent from a year ago.

* Sunflower harvest was forecast at 160.8 million pounds, down 14 percent from last year.

* Cotton production is anticipated to total 83,000 bales, up 1 percent from a year ago.

Harvest of major grain crops continues across Kansas, but the tighter supplies mean pricier feed stock costs for cattle producers, feedlot operators, dairies and others come this winter.

Among the most telling is the forecast for alfalfa hay production of 1.95 million tons. That figure is down 21 percent, making it the smallest alfalfa crop in Kansas since 1956. The 650,000 acres of alfalfa grown this year in Kansas represents the lowest acreage in the state since 1941.

Other hay production was pegged at 2.85 million tons, down 12 percent from last year.

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