Cooperative Extension: Hot, dry summer decimates this year's crop
By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
This year's dry, hot summer has caused enough damage to warrant declaration of an agricultural disaster in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Bobby Clark.
In an Oct. 6 letter to the county administrators of Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren and Page counties, Clark says the extension program had worked with farmers, damage assessment teams and U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to do a preliminary damage assessment.
Corn grain and silage yields were between 50 percent and 75 percent below normal, it says. It was too early to assess soybean losses.
While the drought hurt grasses in July, plenty of rain before and afterward helped offset that, Clark's letter says. Other crops that will have weaker harvests include blueberries, apples and green beans.
The corn crop was hardest hit in Shenandoah County, Clark said in a Monday phone interview.
"Shenandoah County, our corn crop is probably a 75 percent loss," he said. "For Shenandoah County alone, the crop damage, it's up to over $7 million in losses. The total loss [of all crops] from the drought was only $8.8 million across Shenandoah. But corn was by and far the bulk of it.
"Ironically, I don't see any major sufferage on our other crops."
It's unusual to have just one crop so badly damaged, he said.
Clark couldn't recall there being this much damage to corn in the past.
"It's been hurt before, but not to this extent," he said.
According to the preliminary assessment provided by Clark, while Shenandoah lost three-quarters of its normal corn yield, Page and Warren counties lost 65 percent, followed by Frederick County at 60 percent, with Clarke County having a 50 percent loss.
Counties can request that Gov. Bob McDonnell submit a disaster relief request to the secretary of agriculture, Clark said.
Randy Kibler, who has a farm in the Edinburg area, has felt the effects of the drought. He has an 800-acre cornfield, and also grows soybeans and raises cattle.
Kibler estimates he's lost half his corn crop due to "the heat and the drought, no rain and extremely hot temperatures."
He said soybeans were equally affected.
There was a bright side, though.
"We had a very good first cutting of hay," Kibler said.
However, while corn is selling for higher prices, it's getting more and more expensive to get the seeds in the ground and to grow it with the cost of fertilizer, seed and fuel increasing, the farmer added.
The Frederick County Board of Supervisors is expected to have a resolution regarding disaster assistance on its agenda in November, County Administrator John R. Riley Jr. said.