This summer has been hot and dry for portions of western Kentucky, especially areas west of the Land Between the Lakes.

As the area begins another week of 100-degree heat indices, many area farmers are beginning to harvest their corn and early-season soybeans.

"Temperatures this high keep corn from reaching its maximum yield potential," said Chad Lee, grain crops specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "In major grain-producing areas of the state, the weather's been hot and dry, causing corn to reach its full maturity a couple weeks ahead of schedule. In areas where we had moisture and heat, we still have some pollination and seed fill problems."

UK Cooperative Extension agents for agriculture and natural resources in the counties with the hottest and driest weather expect a large amount of the corn crop to be harvested in the next few weeks.

Kenny Perry, Graves County Extension agriculture and natural resources agent, said early estimates indicate that his county's average yields could be reduced by 20 to 25 percent in yellow corn and by 35 to 40 percent in white corn compared to 2009 yields.

In Hickman County, producers have been dealt a one-two punch with the drought and late planting due to flooding this spring, which could substantially reduce yields, said Darian Irvan, the county's agriculture and natural resources agent.

"Early indications are we'll have average yields around 110 to 120 bushels per acre which is down from 165 in 2009," he said. "But we won't know for sure until we start harvesting this week."

He added many fields have large areas of low pollination. Many times these areas are not easy for producers to identify because they are often located in the middle of the field, while the rows around the edge of the field received adequate pollination.

"I've seen yields from 140 to 150 bushels per acre and yields of 50 to 60 bushels per acre in the same field," he said.

But the picture is not entirely grim. Small pockets across the area have received some rainfall from localized thunderstorms, and have better crop conditions as a result, said Todd Powell, Calloway County Extension agriculture and natural resources agent.

Hickman County's full-season soybeans are in decent condition, according to Irvan. They were planted right after the spring flooding and benefited from adequate rainfall this spring.

In Calloway and Graves counties though, even full-season soybeans are showing signs of drought stress.

"I've seen several pods with no beans, pods with deformed beans and pods with one bean instead of the normal three," Perry said.

While it is still too early to tell what will happen with double-crop and late-planted soybeans, the situation could be devastating if the area does not get some much needed rain soon. Many of these soybeans are flowering and beginning to reach pod-filling stages where rainfall is crucial to development.

The agents said they have noticed these soybeans showing signs of drought stress. The plants are turning pale and in some cases, dropping flowers and aborting pods.