Robert Respess resigned himself a number of weeks ago to less-than-average corn yields. A continued drought has the Mathews County, Va., farmer anticipating the same for soybeans, if rain doesn't come.
Gloucester County, Va., father and son farmers Clem and Keith Horsley are in the same situation. “If it wasn't for the dew, everything would be dead,” Keith Horsley says. “If you talked with most of the farmers around here, you'd hear the same story,” Clem Horsley says.
“The soybeans are taking a hit now,” Respess said at the Virginia Ag Expo in Port Royal in mid-August. “Another week of this weather and you can write off the soybeans, too.” Respess grows 450 acres of soybeans and 350 acres of corn. He estimates he'll have a top corn yield of 70 bushels per acre — “And it goes downhill from there, right down to zero.”
Based on the Aug. 11 weekly survey of crops, farmers in the Old Dominion rated 62 percent of the corn crop poor to very poor, says Steve Manheimer, state statistician with the Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service.
Corn yields are expected to average 89 bushels per acre. Last year, corn yields were 123 bushels per acre; in 2000, farmers set a record of 146 bushels per acre.
Fifty-one percent of the soybean crop is rated very poor to poor. The Aug. 11 crop report forecast an average yield of 27 bushels per acre. Virginia soybean producers have had back-to-back good yields: 36 bushels per acre in 2001 and a record 38.5 bushels per acre in 2000. Manheimer points out that the soybean crop still has the potential to recover, if rain comes in time.
Respess and the Horsleys saw their last good rain in late July. “It was the first rain that we'd had since early May,” says Keith Horsley. All three farmers used the word “spotty” to describe their corn and soybean crops. The Horsleys grow 750 acres of corn and 850-900 acres of soybeans.
“We had some potential on our later planted corn, but missed the rain,” says Keith Horsley. “We had a neighbor picking his earlier planted corn. He was getting 55 bushels to the acre.”
Respess hopes he can harvest enough corn and soybeans to “make payments and get some operating income.” Thinking out-loud, he mentions the possibility of having to get off-farm work this winter.
“I've never had a loss where it hit both crops,” Respess says. “Three weeks ago we thought we were going to have a bean crop.”