Posts Tagged ‘CORN’

US Drought Monitor August 14, 2012 001
US Drought Monitor August 16, 2012 photo by Crane-Station on flickr

Link to map and summary.

The US Drought Monitor map for August 14, 2012 was published at 8:30 Am today, August 16, 2012 and is pictured above. Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina (the Southeast) have shown some improvement due to rain, with Alabama no longer experiencing exceptional drought. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states received enough rain that things did not get any worse, according to the map. The South and Southern Plains states Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana experienced deterioration in conditions, with “large swaths of exceptional drought” added this week in Oklahoma. Rain alleviated some of the drought in the Midwest and Northern Plains states, including “central Iowa, across northern and central Illinois and Indiana, and into western Ohio and southern Michigan,” as well as North and South Dakota. However, the summary states, ” Exceptional Drought (D4) expanded in the western and central parts of Nebraska and through central and eastern Kansas and into western and central Missouri.” In the West, extreme and exceptional drought expanded in Colorado. Idaho is also dry.

CNN published this video four days ago, nicely explaining the drought impact to the mighty Mississippi River and the shipping industry:

Updated impact to the US corn and soybean agricultural belt is summarized as follows (from drought map link above):

As of last week, 87% of the U.S. corn crop, 85% of soybeans, 63% of hay, and 72% of cattle areas were experiencing drought. Over half of the corn and soybean areas are experiencing Extreme (D3) to Exceptional (D4) Drought. This has led to both reduced yields and earlier harvests.

We live in the Ohio River Valley in Kentucky at the border where the Ohio divides Kentucky from Southern Illinois that is an area of exceptional drought. Even though people cheered at the first rain a few days ago, that first rain after a drought is kind of like water drops to a hot stove: pfssssst. We will need several soaking rains. This morning I took a walk and put water and food out for the few birds that are out. The only other animal I noticed was a lizard. He did not want to be photographed, so I took these photos:

(Note: Click to enlarge any of the flickr photos in this post)

Drought corn

Drought creek

Drought creek bed

Given the dearth of corn these days, there is concern among folks we have spoken with out and around, that the ethanol requirement is cutting into the already dwindling livestock feed supply. On the shortage of hay, I had a sad conversation with a neighbor who has riding horses. She said that when she attended her last riding club, she learned that some horse owners are selling their horses (I assume for slaughter but I was too stunned to ask) because there is not enough food. I have a family member who owns horses in Indiana, who is not showing or otherwise exercising horses, in an effort to reduce the stress of increased energy requirements on the horses.

In other odd news, low water levels in reservoirs, called “water drawdown” is associated with increased methane emissions, according to this WSU- Vancouver study and covered in this TPM article. It stands to reason that drought can lead to low water levels in reservoirs like the one you see in this article. What to do with all that methane? Well, landfill methane is being used to power prison generators, according to this article.

Speaking of landfills, as you know, we try to keep good things from going to the landfill by retrieving food from dumpsters. We were stunned to find the other day, of all things, corn, in a dumpster. We reasoned that some of the sweet corn must be coming from irrigated gardens somewhere, because there is not any corn growing around here.

The State of the Climate Report is here.

WeatherDem’s latest analysis titled, NASA & NOAA: July 2012 Was 12th, 4th Warmest On Record, is here.

A wildlife impact article by Jim Low titled, Drought affecting Missouri fish, wildlife, forests, is here.

The Department of Defense “purchases approximately 94 million pounds of beef, 64 million pounds of pork, and 500,000 pounds of lamb annually.” They are looking to increase purchases due to the increase in drought-related slaughtered meat, and their statement is here.

Drought conditions and heat are connected to incidents of West Nile Virus, as this article, titled, “Ohio health officials confirm 9th case of West Nile virus, mosquitoes test positive statewide,” explains.

CDC’s 2012 West Nile Update August 14 page is here.

More photos:

Iowa:

20120813-OSEC-DK-97897
Iowa corn photo by USDAgov, creative commons, flickr with summary:

President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Monday, August 13, 2012 to view the drought stricken crops. The federal government has already taken some steps to ease farmers whose crops are growing poorly this summer, and the administration plans to spend close to $200 million on livestock, officials announced earlier in the day. The Department of Defense is encouraging vendors to buy meat to ease the crisis. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.

Colorado:

20120721-NRCS-LSC-0001
Photo by USDAgov on flickr

Aerial views of drought affected Colorado farm lands, 69 miles east of Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July 21, 2012. Green areas are irrigated, the yellow areas are dryland wheat crops. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

US Drought Monitor August 2, 2012

http://www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

The current US Drought Monitor map was published today, and is pictured and linked above.

All but four Chicago-area counties in the US state of Illinois are disaster counties. Illinois has 102 counties. In short, Illinois, and I mean the whole of this giant Midwest state, is a government-listed, aid eligible disaster area. Illinois is, in pertinent part a leading US producer of corn, soybeans and swine, with 76,000 farms covering 28 million acres amounting to nearly eighty percent of Illinois total land acreage. The Illinois Department of Agriculture summarizes:

How does agriculture benefit Illinois’ economy?

Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $9 billion annually. Corn accounts for nearly 40 percent of that total. Marketing of soybeans contributes about one-third, with the combined marketings of livestock, dairy and poultry generating about 23 percent.

Billions more dollars flow into the state’s economy from ag-related industries, such as farm machinery manufacturing, agricultural real estate, and production and sale of value-added food products. Rural Illinois benefits principally from agricultural production, while agricultural processing and manufacturing strengthen urban economies.

How are Illinois’ agricultural commodities used?

With more than 950 food manufacturing companies, Illinois is well-equipped to turn the state’s crops and livestock into food and industrial products. Food processing is the state’s number-one manufacturing activity, adding almost $13.4 billion annually to the value of Illinois’ raw agricultural commodities.

http://www.agr.state.il.us/about/agfacts.html

I include this information about Illinois as one way of understanding the immensity and severity of our current drought situation. This post is just an update, really, because the stories rolling in on a daily basis are each stand-alone amazing stories. There is no way to overstate this issue, and the weather predictions are consistently grim. There are only so many words I can drag from my vocabulary to describe this. I could talk about the strange stuff for a minute: there are no birds out during the days anymore. We have no clear idea how the birds are making it or where they go. Birds are very, I think, intuitive about the environment as a whole. This is bizarre but true. Before the drought hit, I spent a night on the couch downstairs and no, we weren’t arguing because we are, quite frankly, too damn old to argue with each other. Whatever. Anyway, I was on the couch and the birds all woke me with very loud chirping, in the middle of the night. They continued all through the night. Never seen anything like it, so, I called my mother. She said, and she was right, “The birds know. They know something is wrong.”

Hate to rat-a-tat-tat-tat you guys, in true machine gun fashion but here is some of it. Today, our neighbor, Indiana, a quarter of the whole state, joined us in the extra-special category of drought called “Exceptional Drought.” Animals in Indiana are walking around the place, eating leaves and things that animals have never before eaten. Our exceptional drought, in Western Kentucky is really strange because we are a lowland area, surrounded by major rivers like the Missouri, The Ohio, The Tennessee and very close The Mississippi rivers. I got stuck in the mud one time because I did not have a good grasp of the water in the ground and I stupidly parked our truck by the side of the road to rescue a squirrel. While I was picking up the squirrel, the truck was visibly and dramatically sinking into the mud right in front of me. It sunk to the axle, and some locals swung by with a truck to assess, educate, then get back in their truck to drive to their place to get the Hije-Dije-Fanoidenheeden rope thing to pull the idiots that are not from here, out of the mud. The idea that water would ever be an issue in this lush river town was unthinkable. People here, BTW are just such good people, lost everything, never complain. This election season, I think the Passing Public will seek to elect Somebody Who Notices and Cares, preferably with some kind of a synapse connected in his whole damn head.

The current people in charge argue about this non-issue or that one, while fifty percent of America stands in a burned up cornfield. Who we gonna kill with what today is totally and utterly disconnected from a really obvious and meaningful issue that impacts, this time, Big Agriculture. People are sick and tired of hearing this other stuff. There is a real issue at hand here at home in our own food supply, and you watch, for example, the future unknown but guaranteed public health issue. Currently, CDC reports an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, and CDC is focusing, right now on the infant population because this is a very serious and often fatal respiratory illness for the infants. This is stuff nobody reports in the news because news it not really even news anymore, but 18 states are listed with CDC, with Wisconsin in the lead:

http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks.html

Sorry for the digression there. I am reaching my posted words speed limit, but I would like to turn attention for a moment to our Mississippi River. The Mississippi River is the third longest river in North America, and it is used for shipping. This river is now so dangerously low that in some places, only one narrow, one-way lane is allowed. Any job on a towboat on the Mississippi is now dangerous. It is very difficult for a towboat captain to navigate one of these things in shallow water. At one point, I read where something like seven hundred towboats were lined up and waiting. There have been a number of reported groundings. Even more amazing is that, the US Army Corps of Engineers Dredges the Mississippi, just to keep shipping lanes open. The Mighty Mississippi currently sits at a near-record low level.

Here is a description:

“It looks like a coastline out there,” said Reynold Minsky, president of the 5th Louisiana Levee District board. “There are more beaches on the river than there are in Florida.”


http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-02/mississippi-river-drought/56694018/1

I do not yet see a numbers prediction on how much money the shipping industry stands to lose this season due to slowed boat movement, but the big picture here is that we are talking about the United States Heartland.

Old Horse Drawn Corn Planter
old horse drawn corn planter by Colbyt69, creative commons, flickr.

This is a true story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of various farming tasks during the historic drought years of the mid-1930s.

Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

In the spring of each year, the community farmers watched the sky and talked with each other in church about when to prepare the fields for planting. For corn, the fields had to be plowed and harrowed, and then the rows were set. The implements used to plow, break up and smooth the soil and form rows were horse-drawn. After the fields were prepared for planting, corn planters were also hitched to horses. A container on the corn planter was set to click open every three feet or so, and release three kernels of corn to the soil. So far, we are talking about mechanization.

The mechanization ended after the planting of the kernels. The next task involved human hands that belonged to kids, for the most part. Once the corn plants were about two inches tall, the kids in the community crawled up and down the corn rows, inspecting each three-plant corn hill, taking visual inventory. We crawled down each row with a knife and a bucket of kernels, to see if three plants were in each cluster. Less than three plants in a hill meant that there was a cutworm in the soil, dining. We dug and chopped the worm, and replaced the eaten kernel with the new kernel. This task was called “replanting the corn,” and if you were a kid, you got that assignment. Replanting the corn was labor intensive and ritually performed every year. In church, farmers would ask each other, “Did you replant your corn yet?”

Cutworm (Noctuinae) caterpillar
Cutworm photo by Futureman1 on creative commons, flickr.

Another task where fingers did the work was ridding each individual potato plant in any given field of the potato bugs. Potato bugs are fat with orange stripes, and they can completely decimate a field of potatoes. We crawled up and down the rows with a tin can of coal oil that served as our insecticide at the time. We looked at each leaf, picked off the bugs and the masses of eggs, and dropped them into the can of coal oil. These were days before pesticides. In addition to coal oil for the bugs, we rubbed coal oil and bacon grease on our skin to keep the chiggers away. Again, our fingers did the work and like replanting the corn, potato bug removal was extremely labor intensive.

Potato Beetle
Potato Beetle by BugMan50 on flickr, creative commons

We were also always bottling the lambs. I do not ever remember a year when we weren’t nursing baby lambs behind the stove in the house. There was always a mama who had triplets or twins she didn’t like or that were born early in the cold, and we brought the orphans into the house and fed them out of bottles with rubber nipples. The lambs were tame and very hungry and they got strong in a hurry. They would butt their little heads against you, and when they were old enough to run, we sent them back to mama. We always had an area behind the stove fixed for the bottling of the lambs.

Perhaps the most difficult but the most pleasing job I did on the farm during those years was a winter job. In the off-season we repaired the gunny sacks for the wheat. There was no time to do this job in the summer; nobody had time to patch their sacks while tending to crops. Since we could not have the gunny sacks in the house, we would sit in the barn and patch the sacks using heavy thread and darning needles.

Patching the gunny sacks was hard work and the barn was always cold, but the good side of the job was that I got to spend time with my dad. He would tell me stories and teach me moral lessons, and this was the time of year that I got to spend quality time with my father.

Also, we never worked on Sundays. My parents were Evangelical (not to be confused with evangelism), and they thought that it was a sin to work on Sundays. While we went to church when we could, we often did not go because we did not have the gas for the old car (although my dad sometimes took gas from the tractor), or because my mother did not have a dress for church. My mother took a nap on Sunday afternoons, but since my dad never napped, I got to spend more quality time with him on these days. He wanted me to know how to identify every tree and every bird, and during our Sunday afternoon walks we gathered walnuts and hickory nuts. My dad did not want me to miss any of the trees in the area, so on one of the rare occasions that we rode in the car, he stopped the car so that he could show me a wild cherry tree.

One day, we had a contest in the county to see who could identify the most leaves, and I won. I won a bible, because my kind and patient father had taught me to be a markings expert.

all photos taken on 7/24/2012 by CraneStation on flickr

US Drought Outlook (hat tip cmaukonen)

These are popcorn fields in Western Kentucky near our home. One owner, who wished to remain anonymous explained that no one in the area has crop insurance, and that everyone will likely lose the crops. Of the fields we photographed, his looked the best because they are lowland fields. The lowland corn is pictured in the first three photos. Some of the corn growers may chop the fields down for silage. As you can see in the other photos, the creek beds are very low or dry (pictured). One ear we photographed had exposed kernels that appeared unhealthy and below the usual number.

This area relies on nature for water. It is usually extremely lush with swollen creek beds full of small blue gill fish. Many of these beds are dry or very low.

The popcorn grower we spoke to also confirmed the practice among livestock farmers in the region of selling animals for slaughter due to the pressures of drought this season.

Today it was 103 F, and there is no rain in the forecast. As far as corn is concerned, many growers have given up on this year’s crop.
Drought Stressed Corn 005
Lowland popcorn ear, showing less than normal number of kernels, click to enlarge.

Drought Stressed Corn 008
More lowland popcorn

Drought Stressed Corn 006
Lowland

Drought Stressed Corn 013
Corn that is not below the water table

Drought Stressed Corn 012

Drought Stressed Corn 010
Dry creek bed

Drought Stressed Corn 009

Our area today:

…EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT EXPANDS SLIGHTLY…

SYNOPSIS…

THE TWO AREAS OF EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT /D4/ FROM LAST WEEK HAVE BEEN
MERGED. IN KENTUCKY…THIS AREA COVERS MUCH OF HENDERSON…UNION…
MCLEAN…CRITTENDEN…CALDWELL…LYON…LIVINGSTON…MCCRACKEN…
BALLARD AND CARLISLE. IT ALSO COVERS THE OHIO RIVER AREAS OF POSEY
AND VANDERBURGH COUNTIES IN SOUTHWEST INDIANA AND FROM SHAWNEETOWN
TO CAIRO ALONG THE RIVER IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS. EXTREME DROUGHT /D3/
COVERS ALL OF SOUTHWEST INDIANA…WEST KENTUCKY…MOST OF SOUTHEAST
MISSOURI…AND IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS…THE AREA SOUTH OF A LINE FROM
MURPHYSBORO TO MOUNT CARMEL. SEVERE DROUGHT /D2/ COVERS THE REST OF
THE REGION.

SUMMARY OF IMPACTS…

SOIL MOISTURE CONDITIONS.
SOIL MOISTURE DEFICITS CONTINUE TO INCREASE ACROSS THE REGION.
NINETY TO 100 PERCENT OF THE REGION`S TOPSOIL AND SUBSOIL IS
REPORTED AS SHORT OR VERY SHORT.

AGRICULTURAL IMPACTS.
MANY CROPS ARE SHOWING STRESS ACROSS THE REGION AND THE SITUATION IS
BECOMING DIRE FOR MANY FARMERS. A MAJORITY OF THE CORN AND SOYBEANS
ARE LISTED POOR OR VERY POOR. INCREASING AMOUNTS OF LIVESTOCK AND
FIELDS ARE SHOWING STRESS. THE PERCENTAGE OF PASTURES IN THE AREA
RATED AS POOR AND VERY POOR CONTINUES TO GROW. PONDS ACROSS THE
REGION ARE DRY OR DRYING QUICKLY.

Source.

USCorninDrought
photo by USDAgov on flickr

This morning, we rode by several drought-stressed cornfields where we live, in Western Kentucky, and lamented that the farmers will likely lose their entire crops. In many cases, entire patches in any given field have plants that simply never grew at all. Also, the Mississippi River has sunk to near-historic lows, and towed barge groundings are up, complicating shipping on the river.

I have a family member in Indiana who reports the same observations about corn fields. She has horses, and there is no hay, because there is nothing to harvest this year. Also, she was riding in the light of day, and two coyotes tried to attack her horse while she was on it. The coyotes have twice bitten her horses previously. In order for coyotes to attempt to down such a large animal, they are hungry. They are hungry because there are not enough rodents in the fields for the coyotes to eat. These animals are also drought-stressed.

In Texas, cattle ranchers and farmers are selling animals for slaughter by the millions because they cannot afford to feed them; there is not enough food.

On July 16, 2012, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center released a State of the Climate update on the US national drought.

We are currently experiencing the worst drought in my lifetime- the worst drought since the 1950s– and a widespread natural disaster.

Based on the Palmer Drought Index, a moisture supply versus moisture demand calculation, and according to the report, about 56 percent of the US was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought by the end of June, 2012.

The US Drought Monitor Map as of July 5, 2012. with the summary:

By the end of the month, the core drought areas in the U.S. included:

a large area of moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought in the Southeast;

moderate to extreme (D3) drought in the Southern Plains spreading into the Southwest;

moderate to extreme drought in the Southwest to Intermountain Basin, with moderate to severe (D2) drought stretching to the West Coast, and into the Pacific Northwest and pockets of exceptional drought in Colorado;

pockets of moderate to severe drought lingering in the Mid-Atlantic states, with abnormally dry areas in the Northeast states;

moderate to extreme drought across much of the Midwest and Central to Northern Plains, with pockets of exceptional drought in the High Plains of Colorado; and
parts of Hawaii, where moderate to extreme drought persisted.

Highlights from the report:

June 2012 was the 14th warmest and the 3rd driest by measure, on record, since data collection began in 1895. Warmer temperatures accompanied the dry conditions, and Colorado, for example, experienced the warmest June on record.

Two states (Colorado and Kansas) had the warmest April-June, 25 more were in the top ten warmest category, and 19 more ranked in the warmest third of the historical distribution. Twenty-eight states were record warm for January-June 2012 and 26 were record warm for July 2011-June 2012. The rest of the Lower 48 States fell in the top ten warmest or warmest third categories — except Washington and Oregon for January-June and Washington for July-June.

Wyoming statewide Palmer Z Index, April-June, 1895-2012.
As noted earlier, excessive heat increases evapotranspiration and exacerbates drought. The combination of third driest and fifth warmest April-June gave Wyoming the most severe April-June averaged Palmer Z Index in the 1895-2012 record.

The corn and soybean agricultural belt has been hit especially hard by this drought, the report explains.

“Everything’s hungry.”

This Indiana corn farmer takes us through his dried up corn farm, and explains some of the problems related to the 2012 drought: