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Good corn crop enters critical stage

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.comSNbS

If favorable weather conditions continue, Kentucky could see another record corn crop this year.

"The next three weeks are probably the most critical," said Dr. Chad Lee, extension agronomist with the University of Kentucky.

According to Lee, the corn is trying to pollinate and it is in that period when the crop is most sensitive to the  weather.

"Excessive heat and dryness can have a dramatic effect," Lee said. "If we have decent weather (in the coming weeks) our chances for high yields are very good. If it is very hot, the chances for a high yield are not very good."

The Associated Press earlier this week reported a drop in the price of corn as weather conditions remained favorable for the crop.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting a record crop this year, according to the AP.

"You want to have good yields, but you don't want to have low prices," said Lee.

Corn is Kentucky's number one cash crop, bringing in more money to the commonwealth than soybeans, tobacco, hay and wheat, according to the Kentucky Corn Growers Association. The 2013 Kentucky corn crop was reported by the USDA's national agricultural statistical service to be 243 million bushels, making it the largest crop in the state's history.

There are approximately 1.5 million acres of corn planted in Kentucky, according to Lee, which represents about $1 billion in cash receipts. Corn makes up almost one-quarter of the total agriculture-related cash receipts in the state.

Rice may be the largest crop in total acreage worldwide, Lee said, but corn is also high on the list. That can be attributed to, among other things, genetics and management practices.

"Over the last 60-70 years we have learned how to develop and grow corn more efficiently," Lee said. "The kernels have a high level of starch."

There are a lot of things to use corn for, such as feed for livestock, ethanol production, and other things that require starch, such as baby diapers, Lee said.

"Last year was a record year (in Kentucky) for corn, soybeans and wheat, which is highly unusual," Lee said.

The agronomist is reluctant to predict a recurrence of last year's results for all three crops. But the chances are good for a strong corn crop.

"Right now any predictions are sketchy at best," Lee said. "Most of the corn crop looks pretty good at the moment. If we get good weather for another few weeks there is excellent potential for great yields."

The weather is even harder to predict than crop yields.

"As a farmer told me this week, you can have 51 weeks of good weather and one bad week ... and ruin your corn crop," Lee said.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

    

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