Corn, Soybeans Withering In Hot, Dry Weather

CLEVELAND (AP) - Mother Nature has given Ohio farmers what they want -- just not when they want it.

Incessant rain this spring delayed planting. Now, hot, dry weather is threatening to shrivel up corn and soybeans.

"Things continue to go downhill," Jim Ramey, state statistician for the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, said Tuesday. "I've heard people starting to compare it to 1988. But we're not quite in that bad of shape yet."

Nearly two-thirds of Ohio's corn crop is in fair to poor condition. And 15 percent is in very poor condition, up from 6 percent last week. Last year at this time, only 3 percent was in very poor condition.

In 1988 -- a drought year -- 39 percent of the corn crop was in very poor condition at this time of the season.

Soybeans have also been hurt by the dry weather. Thirty-five percent of the soybeans are in poor or very poor condition compared to 22 percent last week.

Corn is nearly a week behind its normal development and soybeans about 10 days behind.

Ramey said the rains came later than normal this year, delaying planting. When farmers finally did get the crops in and needed rain, the spigot turned off, he said.

Many parts of the state have gotten some rain in the past week, but only about half the normal amount. Ramey said if there is not significant rain in the next two weeks, corn and soybeans will begin to die.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance of thunderstorms Thursday and Friday, but the weather is expected to hot and dry after that through next Tuesday.

Mike Shaw, who farms in southwest Ohio's Clermont County, said the inch of rain his farm got Saturday wasn't enough to help much.

Around the state, some corn plants are turning brown at the base, leaves are curling as the plants try to preserve moisture and stunted growth has been reported in some areas. Lack of rain at this time of the season can hurt the reproductive process of corn, resulting in few or no ears.

"It's the worst corn crop we've had in a long time," said Kevin Majors, who farms near the southwest Ohio city of Monroe. "Things don't look good."

Jim Swartz, assistant manager at Luckey Farms near Woodville in northwest Ohio, said farmers like to see a good rain every week this time of year.

"It's amazing to me the plants are alive," he said.

Some farmers are in better shape than others.

Zanesville farmer Buddy Myers said his crops look good, but he would welcome any precipitation.

"Things could get serious soon if we don't get some rain," Myers said. "We planted a month late because of too much rain, and that naturally decreases yield. Now we're looking for more rain."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)