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Ky. Crops Look Good Despite Weather

July 19, 2000

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A dry spell has settled in across parts of Kentucky’s grain belt at a crucial time for crop development, raising concerns about what has been shaping up as a productive year on farms.

Soil moisture has become abnormally dry for crops in western Kentucky, said Tom Priddy, a University of Kentucky extension agricultural meteorologist. Little moisture is available for crops in upper layers of soils in western and central parts of the state, he said Tuesday.

``It’s a critical time. We really need the rain,″ Priddy said.

Despite concerns, the latest crop report shows more than two-thirds of Kentucky’s tobacco, corn and soybeans are in good or excellent condition.

But some fields are starting to show stress from hot, dry conditions.

In Caldwell County, the last significant precipitation fell June 27, said Ricky Yeargan, the county agriculture extension agent.

Early-planted corn and tobacco, which benefitted from timely spring rains, are showing resilience to the dry conditions, Yeargan said. But later crops are starting to suffer, he said.

Yeargan said the lack of rainfall has prevented some tobacco plants from developing adequate root systems. Hay crops that were productive earlier in the season are showing signs of stress, he said.

Some farmers in Logan County haven’t received rainfall since early June, said Joanna Coles, the county agriculture extension agent. The hot, breezy conditions have dried out the soil, she said.

``It seems like we’re always praying for rain at this time,″ she said. ``We’re really watching the forecast.″

Rains in July and August are important to fill out tobacco plants and boost corn and soybean yields, Coles said. Corn growers especially need high yields to make up for chronically low prices, she said.

Farmers in Daviess County benefitted from rains in mid-June and in early July, said county agriculture extension agent Wayne Mattingly.

``As long as we get some timely rains, like we have been getting, we feel like we’ll be in pretty good shape,″ he said.

The rainfall situation is brighter in other parts of the nation. After several years of drought, farmers in Virginia are enjoying strong crop yields thanks to healthy rainfall and cooler temperatures.

Thomas Lutman can hardly believe how good his corn looks this summer on his 164-acre Loudoun County farm.

``I’d forgotten what good corn looks like,″ he told The Washington Post.

The drought is over, if not nationally then at least in Maryland and Virginia. Almost 25 inches of precipitation has fallen so far this year at Reagan National Airport in Arlington.

This time last year, National reported 17.9 inches.

``The real serious drought threat has disappeared from this neck of the woods,″ said Jim Travers, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Farmers say their yields are up, fruits are juicier, vegetables look better and flowers are growing more abundantly.

For Lutman, the improved growing conditions are a relief after three tough years, when he dreaded going to the bank.

``Financially, it’ll definitely be better this year,″ he said.

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