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Ky. farmers looking at prospect of high yields

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kentucky farmer Brian Shouse has a thriving corn crop heading into the crucial push toward harvest season -- a big turnaround from a year ago when a punishing stretch of triple-digit heat and drought led to stunted yields across the state.

Plenty of rain, combined with less-sweltering temperatures, have Kentucky corn farmers headed toward strong yields this year, barring late weather-related setbacks.

"I think everybody's hoping for at least an average crop at this point," Shouse, who farms in Union, Henderson and McLean counties, said by phone Friday. "The corn fields appear to be headed in that direction. We've got good color, pretty good stands."

Corn and soybeans account for about one-third of Kentucky's overall agricultural cash receipts, which are hovering around $5 billion annually.

Both crops are flourishing statewide, a year after fields suffered from the excessive heat and dry conditions that sent 2012 corn yields plunging to a statewide average of 68 bushels an acre, down 71 bushels an acre from the 2011 crop.

Now, 85 percent of Kentucky's corn crop is rated good or excellent, according to the latest weekly report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service's field office in Kentucky. The statewide soybean crop is rated 84 percent good or excellent, it said.

The rainy spring and summer have helped cattle farmers as well. Pastures for grazing are mostly in good or excellent condition, a big improvement from a year ago when they were reduced to brown stubble by drought and heat.

But recent heavy rains inflicted damage on Kentucky's burley tobacco crop. Downpours caused some tobacco plants to wilt and collapse, and nearly 40 percent of the statewide burley crop was rated fair, poor or very poor. Kentucky is the nation's leading producer of burley, an ingredient in many cigarettes.

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