TRI-CITY AREA — The promise of ethanol sent farmers into the fields last spring with planters full of corn seed. But the crop's potential wilted under this summer's drought.
Lapeer and St. Clair County MSU Extension Fields Crop Educator Phil Kaatz said this fall's harvest reveals a 25-35 percent yield reduction from a normal year. Across the state, average yields registered at 117 bushels an acre, far less than last year's 147 bushels an acre.
"The rain we received in August didn't have as much benefit for the corn as the soybeans," he said.
Dry conditions turned a promising growing season into a disappointing harvest for area farmers. photo by Maria Brown.
Yields for beans are only slightly below average, but Kaatz said, with a prevalence for spotty showers this summer, that figures varies across the area.
"It really was luck of the draw," he said.
The average take across the state was 33 bushels an acre compared to 2006's record yield of 45.
Unfortunately, Kaatz said, the dry weather negatively affected the region's hay output too.
This year in Michigan, corn planting shot up by 450,000 acres as prices surpassed $3 a bushel on demand from ethanol plants. More recently, corn's potential has been overshadowed by growing commodity prices for winter wheat and soybeans.
In Oct. 2006, soybeans were valued at $5.47 and $8.35 a year later. Wheat was $3.76 a bushel last year and today stands at $7.46.
No doubt, farmers will take such price hikes into consideration come spring, Kaatz said, but input costs are also on the rise.
"Rent prices are going up and fertilizer costs continue to escalate for all crops," he said.