Weather Equates to Mixed Bag for NY Corn Growers

8/3/2013 7:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent

A cold, wet spring and recent heat wave will likely result in a mixed bag for New York corn growers.

“In northern New York, other than the areas that were low-lying and had standing water for days at a time, the corn is looking pretty good,” said Julia Robbins, executive director of the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association in Sackets Harbor. It’s “getting tall. In those areas that stayed wet, growth is stunted.”

Bill Verbeten, field crops specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County, shares Robbins’ guardedly optimistic outlook.

“In western New York, many fields have already reached tasseling, which is a good sign,” Verbeten said. “Some fields look low yield and some do not. There’s going to be spots in fields that will have lower yield because of the wet weather.

“We’ve seen some northern corn leaf blight earlier than other years, which is usually at the pre-tasseling stage. We may have more disease than other years. It’s hard to know whether or not to use fungicide,” he added.

El-Vi Farms in Newark, Wayne County, is among the more fortunate farms. Partner Allan Ruffalo said that the area’s frequent rain showers in June and July “have been a big benefit for the corn and soybean crop. We’ve probably had some of the nicest corn growing we’ve had in many, many years.”

El-Vi Farms is approximately halfway between Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y. The farm milks 1,000 head of cows and raises its own feed, along with selling extra on the side. Part of the reason El-Vi’s 1,350 acres of corn have done so well is that for the past two decades, the farm has invested in extensive tile drainage systems on its fields.

“We’re seeing the fruit of those labors this year,” Ruffalo said. “About 90 percent of my corn crop is excellent. This is potentially a bumper crop.”

But not every farm in the area has been so fortunate. Some have no drainage systems and for some, the weather has been worse.

“North of us a few miles, they’ve seen excessive rain,” Ruffalo said. “We’re in a pocket where we haven’t had lingering rain. It’ll rain hard, but not for a long time.”

The more frequent showers have made it tougher for El-Vi to harvest wheat and alfalfa forage. But Ruffalo said he prefers having the scheduling hassles rather than dry weather damage his corn crop.

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service New York field office, Empire State operators farm 680,000 acres of corn for grain and 475,000 acres of corn silage. The state’s farmers have averaged 139 bushels of grain and 17 tons of silage the last three seasons.

The top corn producing counties are Cayuga, Livingston and Wyoming.

The New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association and Empire Farm Days are launching the first Corn & Soybean Center at Empire Farm Days in August. The center will include three workshops daily, including a grower panel, innovations from industry partners and information about the soybean checkoff in New York < Photo by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Some corn growers in New York state are reporting a bumper crop, while others are struggling with the rain this summer.

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