FRANKFORT, Ky. — The saying "What a difference a day makes" took on new meaning after heavy rains moved through most of Kentucky from Aug. 8-11.
Some portions of the state received near record levels of precipitation, and in one of those rare occasions experienced this summer, the rain was widespread.
Corn crop conditions had begun to deteriorate, and soybeans were in need of moisture, especially double-crop beans.
Through most of the summer, rain has come mostly in the form of sporadic thunderstorms, leaving many areas lacking in precipitation.
Chad Lee, extension agronomist with the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, said the rain was extremely helpful for the majority of the corn across the state.
"It’s not going to help that corn out much in the southern tier counties because a lot of that early corn was already dead," he said. "Later planted corn down that way, it will help it. This takes it from being a complete disaster to just a moderate disappointment in that area."
For the rest of the state, Lee said the rain could mean the potential for a really good crop. He also said he was pleased with what that rain will mean to the soybean crop.
The Kentucky Mesonet system, a series of weather data collecting stations throughout the state, recorded the differing amounts of rain that fell throughout that entire weekend, and the results were positive for the most part. Stuart Foster, state climatologist and Mesonet director, said the precipitation helped out quite a bit in alleviating some of the dry conditions.
"We still have some deficits over the Pennyrile and into a little bit of the Purchase Area and the upper Green River area, so there’s still some areas that are a bit dry certainly compared to what we would expect this time of year," he said.
Those areas are located in the western portion of the state where the largest quantities of row crops are produced.
The U.S. Drought Monitor listed several of the counties in that area as being either abnormally dry or in the "Moderate Drought" category.
"This has been a drought that came on pretty quickly and sometimes we use the term ‘flash drought,’ which is sort of the analog to a flash flood – something that happens quickly and sometimes without a lot of warning," Foster said.
Through April, the state was fairly wet and then began to dry out, he pointed out. But the long term indicators are not suggesting at this point for the state to remain dry. That will serve as good news to farmers, especially those in the drier regions like Todd County located in the southwest portion of the state.
Curt Judy, who is the county extension agent for agriculture there, said the rainfall in the area was variable in July, and conditions had been fairly dry. "The (corn) crop is definitely not what people want it to be. There are areas in the county that got some good rain, and they are going to have a pretty good crop, but mostly it’s going to be below average," he said. "We had good moisture through June, and we actually had some places that had too much. We got some rain the week of July 4, which is a pretty critical time for us."
Judy said the lack of intense heat has helped the corn even in the times of low moisture.
Todd County is consistently ranked in the top five to 10 counties in grain production each year, making good weather conditions a must.
While it looks as though corn and soybean producers may have dodged a bullet, the USDA predicts lower yields and overall production for this crop versus last year’s record crops. The National Agricultural Statistical Service forecasts a 200 million bushel corn crop, which is down 18 percent from 2013. Average yield is expected to be 138 bushels per acre, a decline of 32 bushels from last year.
Soybean production is also predicted to decrease despite planting 50,000 more acres. The NASS forecast is for production to be at 67.6 million bushels, a decline of 17 percent over last year and a drop in yield average of nearly 10 bushels per acre.
The state’s soybean forecast is in direct contrast to the national picture, which calls for a 16 percent increase in production over 2013 and a slight increase in projected yield.