Tribune-Courier General Manager
Just a month ago corn and soybean crops across western Kentucky appeared headed for a record yield at harvest. Now the crops are showing signs of severe stress due to extremely dry conditions during the month of July.
“We haven’t had any rain in a month,” said Dennis Joseph of Joseph Farms in Benton. “Things are going south in a hurry and if we don’t get some rain soon it’s going to get worse. It’s at the critical stage now.”
Joseph farms around 3,500 acres in Benton, 2,000 of them in corn and another 1,500 in soybeans.
“It really looked good early on, but in the last month the corn is drying up and the same thing is true with the beans,” said Joseph. “If it hadn’t been for the cooler temperatures in July we’d really be in a bind.”
Nikki Rhein, agriculture and natural resources agent for the U.K. Cooperative Extension in Marshall County, said the problem actually started with the unusually wet spring.
“When it’s extremely wet at planting time like it was you aren’t going to get a deep root system. Now that it’s dry, the roots are shallow and they need water,” said Rhein. “The corn plants are starting to look drowsy. The drier weather will have a negative impact on kernel development and that will really ding your yield,” she said.
Rhein said she hasn’t yet walked any fields in Marshall County this season, but says farmers across the region are echoing Joseph’s comments about the stress on corn and soybeans.
Portions of southwest Marshall County were declared to be in the early stages of drought last week by the National Weather Service. The remainder of the county remains “abnormally dry” on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Sean Poulos, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, said total rainfall for the area in July was 2.15 inches below average. July’s total rainfall was 4.25 inches, according to the NWS readings recorded in Paducah.
The mesonet station in Draffenville recorded only 1.14 inches of rainfall for July, with the last measurable precipitation on July 14.
Poulos said areas of western Kentucky are in a particularly dry pocket of the region, with more significant rainfall recorded north of Bowling Green and west of Paducah.
The 10-day forecast for Marshall County shows only a chance of thunderstorms, with more summerlike temperatures into the 90s returning across the area.
Joseph said those hot temperatures could mean more trouble for his crops.
“The only thing that really has saved us at all is the cool temperatures we had in July. If it gets hot that will mean more problems,” he said.