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Topsoil moisture supplies are rated short or very short on 94 percent of Tennessee farmland. The corn and pasture acreages are especially affected, as almost half the corn is rated in very poor or poor condition with two-thirds of the pastures in this same category.
Soybean, tobacco and cotton acreage remained in mostly fair-to-good condition, but declined substantially in one week.
In Lincoln County, the scant amount of rain has severely affected many crops. David Qualls, Lincoln County Extension Agent, reports that there is not enough corn yield to harvest. Some farmers have talked about baling for silage, but that could be dangerous.
“The drought has caused high nitrates in the corn – without rain, it can kill cattle,” Qualls stated.
Currently some of the corn is being sent to a lab to see how high the nitrates are in the corn.
Even predicted rain this week may not help.
“If we got rain now, the corn still won’t make it,” he said.
“Corn prices are going out the roof,” he said.
Hay has been severely affected also. Qualls explained that on the first cutting of hay this year, farmers got half or less than they normally do. But, with pasture grasses dried up, many farmers are feeding whatever hay they might have left over from last year or were able to harvest on the first cutting to cattle, horses or goats. Normally, hay wouldn’t be fed until the fall.
Since the drought covers the mid-west and most of the nation, Qualls says there’s no hay around. Transportation for hay will be about double of the price of the hay, he said.
“It’s critical …if anybody has hay they want to sell, we (the extension office) can keep a list,” he said.
There may not be a second cutting of hay this year but maybe a third if the county gets rain.
Qualls noted that there is some hay, but not much, left over from last year’s Agricultural Enhancement Program that has been stored in buildings. UT has some resources and suggestions for people under Drought and Extreme Heat Resources on their website http://agriculture.tennessee.edu.
Adding to the hardship are the many ponds, streams, wells and springs drying up.
“It’s impractical to haul water for cattle,” said Qualls.
One cow drinks about 25 gallons of water per day.
“I figure there’ll be considerable liquidation,” Qualls stated.
Soybeans could recover with some rain soon, Qualls noted, but so far there hasn’t been much rain since the soybeans were planted.
Tennessee farmers have been topping tobacco for the past couple of weeks. And, with rain soon, farmers could see a cotton crop.
There were 7.0 days suitable for fieldwork across the state. Topsoil moisture levels were rated 56 percent very short, 38 percent short and six percent adequate. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 46 percent very short, 41 percent short and 13 percent adequate. Temperatures across the state averaged five to 10 degrees above normal.