Dry soil levels raise concern in Md., Del.
An ongoing drought has lowered soil moisture and harmed a significant portion of the region’s corn and soybean crop, the USDA’s recent Crop Progress Report said.
All of Delaware’s topsoil and subsoil were graded short or very short, according to the Oct. 6 report. A USDA short grading means seed germination and crop growth could be curtailed, and very short moisture conditions can create irreversible crop damage.
Maryland’s soils are marginally better with just 3 percent of the state’s top soil and 6 percent of its subsoil considered adequate, the report said.
“I would call it a severe drought that we are under now,” said Richard Wilkins, president of the Delaware Farm Bureau.
The weather is delaying the planting of winter crops such as barley and wheat and soil health cover crops, he said.
“There’s just not enough moisture in the germination zone to get those seeds germinated and established,” Wilkins said.
The lack of moisture is also affecting the region’s corn and soybean quality. Nearly half of Delaware’s soybeans and more than a third of its corn were rated poor or very poor, the report said. Poor-rated crops can lead to heavy yield losses, very poor-rated crops can lead to extreme yield loss or total crop failure.
More than a third of Maryland’s soybeans were rated poor or very poor, the report said. The state’s corn quality was not reported.
“Corn harvest is moving along well, with storage being the thing holding back harvest,” Charles Schuster, a Maryland farmer, wrote in the report regarding Howard and Montgomery counties. “Soybean harvest has begun, and a lack of rainfall during the bean fill period is causing smaller beans and lower yield.”
Evan Miles, a Maryland farmer on the Eastern Shore, said he is most concerned that the drought could lead to field fires sparked by equipment, though he didn’t see abnormal crop conditions on his farm.
“We’re definitely taking a hit on yield,” he said.
Soybean conditions in Sussex County, Del., are a problem, wrote Henry T. Hudson III in the crop report.
“Unless irrigated, soybeans are a disaster crop this year,” he wrote. “Almost a month with no rain while soybeans were supposed to be filling out.”
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