State harvest expected to be good, but not great

On The Farm

August 21, 2005|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

LAST YEAR'S bin-busting harvest is not going to be repeated in Maryland this year.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first estimate of the size of this year's grain crops, state farmers can expect a good harvest, but it won't set any records.

"Overall, we are going to have a reasonable good crop," said state Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley. "It's not going to be a great harvest, but in all honesty, the outlook for yields is pretty good."

Corn yields, the best measure of how well the crop is progressing, are expected to be off 13 percent this year, according to the USDA's projection based on field conditions Aug. 1.

Soybean production is expected to fare only slightly better. If the rest of the growing season goes as expected, soybean yields will be off 10.2 percent.

"The reductions are pretty much related to water," Riley said. "There were some parts of the state, particularly the lower Eastern Shore, where we had hard rains, 5 or 6 inches, in spring that damaged some young plants."

More recently, he said, the problem has been a lack of rain.

"Some areas of the state -- Western Maryland and the central Eastern Shore, Talbot County -- are going through spotty droughts. They are not severe droughts, but just enough to reduce yields a bit."

The numbers in the government's latest forecast look discouraging primarily because they are being compared with last year's record, or near-record, production.

Corn is expected to yield 135 bushels from each acre planted. That is down from 153.

Last year's corn yield is second only to the 2000 crop, which produced 155 bushels an acre.

Corn production is expected to total 54 million bushels this year, 11 million bushels fewer than last year's harvest.

The soybean yield is forecast at 39 bushels an acre, down from 42 bushels last year, which tied the record set in 2000.

With 455,000 acres of soybeans expected to be harvested, the USDA is projecting production to total 17.7 million bushels. This compares with 21.3 million bushels produced in 2004.

The USDA's crop estimate shows that other grain growers in the state are having a very good year.

The average yield for wheat is estimated at 65 bushels an acre, second only to the record yield of 66 bushels per acre set in 2002.

With 140,000 acres harvested, production is estimated at 9.1 million bushels.

Barley yields also are excellent, at 81 bushels per acre. This compares with last year's average yield of 73 bushels per acre and the five-year average of 74 bushels per acre.

Total production of barley is estimated at 3.4 million bushels.

This is not expected to be a good year for the state's apple orchards.

Production is expected to be off 12 percent from last year with 30 million pounds.

Looking at the country as a whole, the USDA expects corn production to reach 10.3 billion bushels, down 12 percent from last year, but 3 percent larger than the 2003 crop.

Corn yield is expected to average 139.2 bushels an acre, down 21.2 bushels from last year's record.

With the exception of Michigan, the USDA reported that forecast yields are lower in all the Corn Belt states as warm, dry weather throughout the growing season depleted soil moisture levels and stressed crops.

Across the United States, corn yields are forecast lower than last year in 29 of 33 states surveyed.

The sharpest declines were reported in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, which are suffering through a serious drought this year.

The nation's soybean crop is forecast at 2.79 billion bushels, down 11 percent from 2004 but 14 percent bigger than the 2003 crop.

Soybean yields are expected to average 38.7 bushels an acre. This is a drop of 3.8 bushels from the record high U.S. yield set last year.

The government reports that yields are lower than last year across the country with the exception of Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

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