The rains came on time, but the damage is done

Think it’s hot and dry? Well, weather data backs that up.

In fact, it was one of the driest early Julys on record for several parts of the northeast, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Check out the chart below, which details the 15-day period between July 1 and July 15. For the Bridgeport, Connecticut area, it was the driest first 15 days of July on record. For several other regions, it was among the 10 driest early Julys ever.

The good news is that the rain came just in time for a lot of corn which started to panicle. The bad news is that top-end yields have likely declined and hay land is in poor condition in some places.

“I don’t think we’re where we were in 1999, when the average yield was 80 bushels, but the jury is still out,” says Jeff Graybill, agronomy educator at Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Even with modest rainfall, Graybill says the ground is still quite dry and another hot, dry spell could spell bad news for corn that has yet to pollinate.

Eric Rosenbaum of Rosetree Consulting in Shillington, Pennsylvania, says he saw a mixed bag depending on location.

“I feel like we’re looking at the haves and the have-nots,” he says. Many of his crop consultant clients have reported drought-damaged crops, especially in the northern part of the state. Further south, in the Berks-Lancaster-Chester area, Rosenbaum says the deep limestone soils likely hold a lot more water and crops look better.

TJ Campagnola, who farms 1,600 acres of crops and raises 40 head of Jersey cows and 150 head of beef in Northampton County, says his crops got the rain at the right time.

“Everything looks a lot better, but I still think there’s been some damage,” Campagnola says, adding that much of its conventional corn is just starting to grow and its organic corn isn’t. than at the waist.

Still, more rain is needed, he says, for his maize to fully recover and for his flowering soybeans to set good pods. He’s got 80-90 acres of hay and the first cut has been good. But the second cut was terrible, he says.

“We need more humidity,” says Campagnola. “We still haven’t been off the hook with any of these mushrooms. It is too early to tell.

Jesse Bitler, who farms 300 acres of corn behind small grains in Fleetwood, Pa. — he also has 230 cows — says his farm saw 2 inches of rain recently, more than enough to keep the corn from curling.

Meanwhile, Chip Bowling, who grows nearly 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat on his farm in Newburg, Maryland, says his farm has received more than enough rain so far.

“For the most part, I think Maryland is in good shape,” Bowling said. “I know southern Maryland is in great shape. In certain places. we almost had too much rain. So the corn over here looks really good. The beans are really starting to get strong.

His wheat crop, which is harvested before his double-crop soybeans, was about average, he says. Much of his wheat was planted late last fall and may not have produced enough tillers to give him optimum yield.

But Mother Nature has been unpredictable for the past 10 years on her farm. “Over the past 10 years, I have had a very good or a very bad harvest. Nothing is average anymore,” says Bowling.

Further north in western New York, David DeGolyer of the Western New York Crop Management Association, which manages or consults on 500,000 acres of crops in western New York and northern Pennsylvania, says the Recent rains have arrived just in time to save much of the region’s silage. corn. “We feel incredibly blessed,” he says.

But the hay cuts were non-existent. He estimates harvested hay will drop by at least a third, if not more, due to the hot, dry weather. Last fall, growers started planting hay late due to wet weather. Then a wet May led to a terrible first cut. Now the heat has almost erased the second cut.

DeGolyer says some growers will end up cutting more corn, while others have planted sorghum or even triticale.

“I’m really concerned about the haylage inventory,” he says.

Management of drought-stressed maize

Of course, with so many animals in the area, you can still market your drought-stressed corn as silage, but check with your insurance agent first.

“Livestock producers should begin evaluating winter feed stocks and explore opportunities to purchase corn silage, western hay, or other forages,” according to a Penn State article. Cooperative Extension.

Drought is most severe when it occurs within two weeks before or after silking, according to the Extension article. A rough estimate of potential grain yield can be obtained using the grain count method, accessible at extension.psu.edu.

An estimate of wet silage yield (70% moisture) is 1 ton per foot of height of earless or poorly pollinated corn.

For non-cob developing corn fields that shed leaves and don’t roll over at night, yield potential will likely be low — 0 to 50 bushels per acre, according to the Extension article. For fields that have a good stand and only roll during the day, there may still be good yield potential if more moisture arrives.

If the corn has glands and the leaves stop uncurling at night and the tops start to turn brown, the plants probably won’t recover, according to the article. And if the browning continues, forage quality will also decline, as the plants use the carbohydrates stored in the leaves and stem to sustain themselves.

If half the leaves are dead or dying, score them for silage. But moisture testing is essential because corn is often wetter than it looks. If forage contains more than 75-80% moisture, delay harvesting.

Also, avoid chopping when the humidity is below 60% to 63%. If a drought-ending rain occurs just before a planned salvage harvest, the moisture content of drought-stressed immature maize will increase, so harvesting should be delayed in this situation.

More information can be found at extension.psu.edu.

You can also find information on this University of New Hampshire blog: extension.unh.edu.

About Marco C. Nichols

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