The heat and dry weather this season has interrupted what could have been a great year of production for area farmers.
“In general the crop in Hardin County had a great start and most were set up to have record-breaking corn yields,” said Matt Adams, extension agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service. “Dry weather in the last 45 days combined with periods of extreme heat have taken a toll on crops county wide.”
Most corn, he said, made it through pollination without harm. But, it has suffered during the grain fill period which impacts kernel depth and yield.
“The earliest planted corn should still be average to slightly above average yield, but the later planted crop will likely be well below average,” Adams said.
Soybeans still are setting and filling pods and benefited some from the recent rain. The rain was welcomed but more is needed, and soon, he said.
“Corn and soybean crops use roughly 1-1.5 inches of rain per week during rapid growth and grain fill, so it’s easy to see how we can quickly fall behind on moisture this time of year.”
According to the Kentucky Mesonet Center in Cecilia, it has rained only three days in the last 25 days, accumulating 0.53 inches of precipitation. On two of the three days, 0.01 inches of rain was measured.
The weather also has made early planted corn mature more quickly.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some combines running corn in the next 10 days to two weeks,” he said.
Some farmers use alternate methods to help in their fields during dry periods. Irrigation systems can be found in fields throughout the county.
Drew Langley uses an irrigation system on his farm near White Mills.
The system has been a big help during dry seasons, he said. His system uses water from Nolin River.
When he picks corn in the areas that have been sprayed by the irrigation system he can tell there’s a better crop yield.
It even helps during seasons when there has been a good rain, he said. Sometimes, if there are a couple dry days in those seasons, if he uses the irrigation it helps even more.
But it’s not just grain crops that have been hampered by the weather. Adams said the dry weather also impacts pastures.
“Many cattle producers have begun feeding hay in the last few days to some degree and some shallower stock ponds are beginning to dry up, which could create challenges watering livestock,” he said. “With a hay shortage coming out of last winter the last thing we need is to begin feeding this year’s hay stocks in August.”
Elizabethtown farmer Mark Thomas said his crops are dry and the pastures are brown.
“The corn on the hills has already began to dry down, some of it already fully brown,” he said. “As each day passes we can see the spots in the field that are brown get bigger.”
He said soybeans are in the critical stage.
“With the dry weather the grain will be small, causing it to yield less,” Thomas said. “We have only had one measurable rain at our house since the beginning of July.”
Thomas feels crop yields are going to be less than their potential from the first of the season.
“The moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for,” he said. “In May and June we were concerned about the excess rainfall and now Mother Nature has turned it off.”
Adams said the U.S. Drought Monitor currently classifies Hardin County as abnormally dry.
“Our UK ag meteorologist, Matt Dixon, has kept in close contact with me to monitor conditions in this area and forwards that information on to the Division of Water, who is responsible for updating the Drought Monitor for the state,” he said. “Matt expects that our area will be moved into a D1 or Moderate Drought classification in the next few weeks if weather patterns don’t change.”
According to the National Weather Service, the next potential rain for the area is Tuesday when a 30 percent chance is forecast.