Corn suffers under heat

Published 10:04 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Corn crops face a double threat from the weather this summer.

Between the intense heat and a lack of rain, fields are bone dry, resulting in what could be a 30-percent to 50-percent yield loss this year, according to Janet Spencer, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Isle of Wight County.

“The crops have been hit with a double-edged sword,” Spencer said. “It’s bad enough that we’re in a drought situation right now. It’s even worse that the heat has been so high. The crops are like humans. The hotter it is, the more energy it has to expend. It loses moisture when it’s hot. We need more rainfall, now.”


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The area’s last significant rainfall came on June 20, which brought just over an inch and a half of rain, according to Tim Gingrich, Wakefield station National Weather Service meteorologist.

Since then, there were three days in June with .01 inches of rain.

While the heat won’t fall below 90 anytime soon, there is a 20 percent chance of precipitation Wednesday evening through Friday and a 40 percent chance of storms on Saturday.

“We’re looking at high temperatures for the next few days, but we may have some isolated chances for showers or thunderstorms starting Wednesday and going through Friday,” Gingrich said. “That’s just the pattern that comes in from the ocean and moves from west to east. Chances are better on Saturday, which should bring in a cold front from the northwest.”

The possibility of rain brought relief to Spencer, who said the rain could save the soybean, cotton and peanut crops.

“The problem with the corn was that it’s an earlier crop,” Spencer said. “A few weeks ago, when it was silking and the ear was in formation, it needed water — and it didn’t get any. The result is that the ear of the corn just won’t develop.”

The critical development period of soybeans, cotton and peanuts will come in a few weeks, according to Spencer.

“If we don’t see rain in the next few weeks, we may experience more loss of crops,” Spencer said. “But they haven’t reached their critical development period ¬— yet. It’s coming soon. If we don’t get rain when the soybeans and peanuts start to develop their pods and the cotton starts to develop its bolls, we could see yield loss.”

To avoid that loss, a good start would be an inch of rain a week, she said.

“We need it, now,” Spencer said. “Our farmers are in a very serious situation.”