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August 14, 2012

 

Dry weather hurts area corn crop

CornJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Annette and Gerald Neuman of Homer pick corn on Saturday for their roadside farm stand.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter

A hot, dry growing season has resulted in high prices and unsteady corn crop yields so far this year, area farmers said.
John Diescher, whose farm on Route 41 in Polkville supplies both sweet and feed corn, said he has had to irrigate his sweet corn this year and the product is down about 10 to 20 percent from its usual growth this time of the year.
Diescher and other farmers said that the hot temperatures and sparse rainfall early in the season hit the corn hard.
“I did irrigate the second half of my sweet corn,” Diescher said. “Twenty-four hours a day we’re pumping water and that saves the crop, we’ve got a beautiful crop of corn right now on the sweet corn.”
He said he could not get the irrigation system to reach the first half of his corn crop so he only picked about 50 percent of that.
Nationwide, corn production is expected to drop 13 percent this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Friday. The agency expects farmers to harvest 10.8 billion bushels.
Annette Neuman said the farm she and her husband, Gerald, own about three miles north of Homer on Route 11 has also been hit hard.
“Sweet corn this year has been terrible. We lost almost 50 percent of our corn, keeping prices up,” Neuman said.
She said the first growth of corn was not even salvageable, forcing the farmers to cut it down.
The farm stand operated by the Neumans had to open about a month later than it usually does, she said.
Neuman described the picking as “hit or miss.” Some ears are too small and some corn stalks grew but there was not enough moisture for ears to develop. There might be one corna stalk with an ear and next to it just a stalk, she said.
This situation has caused the Neumans to increase the cost of their corn.
“At first we were totally devastated. We never had a year where we had to cut down our corn,” she said, adding that the cost of planting and buying the corn seed and fertilizer is very expensive so they took a financial hit being forced to cut their whole first growth.
But Neuman said the later corn growth is looking good, developing ears and growing tall.
Bob Johnson, a retired farmer in Cortland, said his son Patrick has been having success growing his corn, though the second cutting of his hay was very light because of the hot, dry weather.
Johnson said his son planted his corn at the right time.
“Those who planted early got hurt more on the drought. He planted later and lucked out on that one,” said Johnson, speaking for his son who was out of town Saturday.
Diescher said he expects his corn crop will be over about a week early because of the weather and the early start to the growing season.
He said he could not help his crop of feed corn but could irrigate his sweet corn. The price of the feed corn will be higher than usual because of the nationwide drought and demand, he said.
“It’s hard for a young fella getting started without a lot of reserve in the bank book to buy feed. Feed is going to be high because it’s short,” Diescher said.
But he said the sweet corn price is where it was at this time last year.
“We figure the price we’re getting is good enough,” Diescher said. “We’re happy with it and I want my customers to be happy.”
Farmer Paul Fouts said his crop corn has picked up after a rough start.
“We were awfully nervous, it was curling badly for a little bit then it started to rain again but it doesn’t look too bad right now,” Fouts said.
Fouts, whose farm lies on the border between Cortland and Groton on Route 222, said he planted the crop early enough that the roots were able to get down deep and tap into moisture reserves. The rich soil also helped, locking in any moisture that the farm got, rather than letting it drain out, he said.
“It doesn’t look too bad right now,” Fouts said. “We are not going to make any yield records but we’ll be fine.”

 

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