It’s a good news-bad new scenario for 2012’s harvest: the warmer weather helped produce a bumper wheat crop but it’s killing the corn crop.
As of Thursday, roughly 61 percent of the U.S. was in drought status, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationand the National Drought Mitigation Center, and it’s getting worse in the Corn Belt.
The heat wave that scorched much of the Great Plains in late June and early July heat wave, coupled with persistent dry weather, has created poor conditions in 30 percent of the corn crop in 18 states, the Drought Monitor reported. The heat is also hurting livestock producers, with half the country's pastures and ranges now reported in poor condition, up from 28 percent last month.
But winter wheat farmers are rejoicing at a 43 percent increase in the harvest, which is now complete. Kansas farmers produced 396 million bushels of winter wheat during the earliest harvest on record, according to an AP report.
"It is better than we thought it was going to be when harvest started," said Bill Spiegel, spokesman for the industry group Kansas Wheat.
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported that this harvest is 43 percent larger than last year's drought-stricken crop. It is also up 2 percent from last month's forecast.
"We had some pretty rough weather from May 1 through harvest, so this is a good number — 396 million bushels is up pretty dramatically over last year, as the numbers say. We are pretty pleased with that crop," Spiegel said.
Drought covered parts of 42 states, with only Alaska, New Jersey and the New England states completely drought-free, NOAA reported.
And the drought didn’t bring bad news to all farmers. Warren Kittler, who helps small-scale, specialty-crop producers in Lincoln, Neb., says the drought has been beneficial to some farmers who use the correct irrigation system.
“The lack of rain inhibits the spread of many fungal diseases, so our tomatoes and peppers are thriving,” he said. “In drought situations, drip irrigation can be the difference between success and failure.”
What’s your experience with the drought this summer? Harvest’s Frank Morris is traveling to Colorado and Kansas to report on this story for NPR. You can help him report the story by clicking here and giving us your insight.