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Dry weather taking toll

July 17, 2007|by JEFF SEMLER

If you are a regular reader of the Farm page, you will notice the Pasture Walk mentioned in my column last week is no longer in the Ag calendar.

That's right. Our Pasture Walk scheduled for Thursday, July 19, at the Hendershot brothers' farm, has been canceled.

Why?

The answer is easy - dry weather.

Their newly-planted pastures, which we planned to walk, are suffering from this prolonged dry spell, and the cows are in the barn.

This is a worthy management decision. Yes, even those who graze have to balance grazing and feeding in light of both the long-term health of the pasture and the production needs of the herd.

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In this case, the pasture needs to be left to rest and wait on much-needed moisture. The cows need to be fed, and the stored forage fed in the barn is the best bet for now.

With all crops suffering in the field, I thought I would share comments from Greg Roth, grain production specialist with Penn State Cooperative Extension:

"Moisture and temperature stress is beginning to affect many of our corn crops," Roth said. "The combination of high temperatures and drought is particularly stressful on the crop, especially during the critical pollination period.

"Precipitation during the next three weeks will be critical for maintaining reasonable yields. In some areas, soil moisture reserves are exhausted and the crops will be depending on precipitation during the remainder of the year.

"On the positive side, crops that have been planted early and managed well to this point have remarkable levels of drought tolerance. Weed pressure, compaction and insect injury increase the impact of the drought. Many of us have seen crops that have been under extended periods of moderate stress, and yet still yield over 100 bushels per acre.

"Drought and heat stress prior to the pollination period can affect internode elongation and result in shorter corn crops and lower silage yields. During the pollination period, drought stress can delay silk emergence and reduce the pollination of the ear, resulting in lower kernel numbers.

"To assess pollination, use the 'shake test' and peel back the husk gently from an ear and then shake it to determine if any silks remain attached to the ear. Those that remain attached are not pollinated.

"For more on this test, see a recent Purdue Web site: www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/timeless/EarShake.html.

"For fields that have pollinated, continued drought stress will result in kernel abortion on the tips of the ear, further reducing kernel numbers. Stress that continues in August will affect grain fill and grain size. The combination of lower kernel numbers and reduced fill leads to lower yields."

Stay tuned, as next week I will continue with our dry weather theme. In the meantime, pray for rain.

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