Home Adair County NICK ROY: Dry weather impacting crops

NICK ROY: Dry weather impacting crops

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Maps released on June 23 by the U.S. Drought Monitor has most of Adair County in the D-0 (abnormally dry) drought status. According to the Adair County Mesonet station, Adair County has received 2.4 inches of rain during the month of June. It’s important to note that rainfall has been scattered with some areas of the county receiving more or less. The impact of the lack of rainfall is easy to observe in some areas with corn leaves rolling during the daytime and grasses in lawns and pastures drying up.

Rainfall in the near future is desperately needed for the development of the corn crop. According to UK Grain Crops Specialist Dr. Chad Lee, corn water use increases from emergence to about V15 where it peaks until about R2 (blister stage) and then starts to drop off after that. At peak water demand, corn likely uses about 0.25 to 0.33 inches per day in our region. Air temperature, humidity and cloud cover all affect how much water is lost each day. Corn that is pollinating is the most sensitive to water stress. 

Many livestock producers are seeing the growth of grass unable to keep up with livestock consumption and the lack of rainfall has hindered the growth of forages. It’s important to try your best to avoid overgrazing during this time. Forages that are overgrazed will recover much slower once rainfall does occur. Ideally we would like to avoid grazing cool season grasses any shorter than 5 inches. Clipping pastures is typically encouraged to remove seed heads and encourage new growth. Clipping pastures to remove seed heads have many benefits including potential reduction in pinkeye and development of weed seed. Removing the seedhead also triggers hormones in the plant to produce new vegetation and improves sunlight available to leaves. However, the cost of fuel and dry conditions have some farmers opting not to clip pastures. 

Livestock farmers should start thinking about a potential alternative game plan to produce forages if stored forages are still needed. Warm season annuals such as sudangrass can be planted up till about mid-August with small amounts of water. Cereal rye can also be planted starting in mid-August through October.  Cereal rye planted in mid-August is likely to provide 1-2 grazings this fall while later planting will not provide any grazing opportunities till next spring. 

Gardeners may start to see the impact of dry weather in the form of blossom end rot in tomatoes caused by calcium deficiency. While our soils are rarely deficient in calcium, water plays a critical role in the plant’s uptake and distribution of calcium.  Irrigation and mulching to conserve moisture can help to reduce the incidence of blossom end rot.  Avoid wetting foliage as much as possible as this could encourage fungal and bacterial diseases to develop on the plant.

Excessive amounts of ammonium may also depress a plant’s calcium uptake. Avoid using urea or fertilizers high in ammonium. Instead, choose fertilizers high in nitrate. Calcium nitrate is an excellent nitrogen fertilizer and can be found at local farm stores in small quantities.  Calcium nitrate can be applied to tomatoes once the first fruit reaches golf ball size and repeated every few weeks. 

For more information, contact the Adair County Cooperative Extension Service at (270) 384-2317.

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