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Valley crops shriveling

Published: Thu, July 12, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.


Sam Detwiler, owner of Detwiler Farm in southern Mahoning County, holds a clump of dry soil in front of his soybeans. Detwiler's soybean crop has patches where the plants did not grow, and those that did are shorter than normal.

SEE ALSO: Technology helps limit corn losses in drought




Without more rain in the next few weeks, corn and other field crops may have dramatically lower yields in the Mahoning Valley.

Sam Detwiler, owner of Detwiler Farm in southern Mahoning County near Columbiana, has fields of crops growing inconsistently with patches of soybeans missing and corn that is 2 feet or more lower than average.

“We probably need an inch of rain in each of the next few weeks,” he said.

The only year that can be compared to this year is 1988 in dry conditions, but this year has not been as bad, Detwiler said. Typically corn should be 7 feet tall by this point and in most places it’s well short, he said.

“I normally get about 150 bushels an acre for corn. This year I might get 100 bushels an acre if we get rain; if not, it could be a lot less,” he said. “The ears we will have will be smaller than normal”

The next two or three weeks are key for the area’s corn and soybean crops, said David Marrison, agent for the Ohio State Agricultural Extension in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. He said Trumbull County is faring better than Columbiana or Mahoning counties.

“The corn has just started to tassle [produce ears],” he said. “We need an inch to an inch and a half of rain within the next few weeks.”

The weather forecast for the Youngstown area shows a chance of rain starting Friday and continuing through the weekend, according to Accuweather. The question is will whatever falls be enough.

“In this part of the state, we can undergo a dry year better than we can withstand a wet year,” Marrison said.

The rain that fell on July 3 and July 4 helped local crops, but not all areas of the Mahoning Valley benefited, he said.

Those who planted earlier this year appear to have crops that are doing a little better because of more rain in early spring, Marrison said. “Just a few weeks ago we were looking at one of the best crops on record, but now we might be looking at one of the worst,” he said.

Despite a few periods of rain during the last week, the entire Mahoning Valley is classified as being within a moderate drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The season outlook is for the current drought conditions in the area to persist or become worse, according the National Weather Service.

More of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, according to a release from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which operates the monitor.

AccuWeather.com reports heat and drought threaten to take their toll on the northern part of the corn belt in the coming weeks including Iowa, according to Alex Sosnowski, Senior Expert Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

The impact of heat and drought is likely to spread into more of the Midwest this week, he said.

The dry weather has already had an impact on produce costs, said Henry Nemenz, owner of 3 IGA stores and 7 Sav-A-Lot stores.

“We go to an auction in New Wilmington, Pa., and the ears of sweet corn are smaller than normal,” he said. “The average person who travels through the Youngstown area would look at the crop and think it looks pretty good.”

But without some more moisture the development will be stunted, Nemenz said.

In addition, a national corn shortage will cause prices to rise at the grocery store, he said.

“I hear people complain about the prices but we’re lucky as Americans. We spend on average about 20 percent of our income on food,” Nemenz said. “In Europe and most everywhere else they spend about 40 percent of their income on food.”

In some parts of Ohio there will not be any corn ears and the stalks will be turned into animal feed, said Anthony Bush, vice president of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.

“Throughout the state 37 percent of the corn crop is being rated as good; that means more than 60 percent is not good,” he said.

There is a chance that crops in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota could help prevent rising prices in grocery stores for products that contain corn, Bush said. Although that is in doubt with reports of the drought spreading north.

Prices have risen for corn, though the increased costs will not necessarily mean more income for farmers, he said.

“Rising prices don’t help if you don’t have anything to sell,” Bush said.

For those farmers with crop insurance, payments should allow them to continue farming next year, he said.


1howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

So we are having a drought, but local governments want to sell what water we have to oil & gas companies so they can drill for shale gas..... You can't drink money or gas nor can you grow food with either of them.

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2cambridge(4052 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

How many million gallons of water does it take to frack one well?

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3walter_sobchak(2672 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm sure they would also sell the water to farmers if they wanted to buy it but it costs money to transport the water in trucks or to lay irrigation piping. Since the Meander reservoir holds 11 billion gallons of water, there is plenty of water to sell. Did you know that the City of Youngstown developed Lake Milton as a direct response to the steel mills on the Mahoning River that needed a constant supply of water for their steel-making operations? Businesses need water and someone sells it to them.

While it varies with the size of the well and the boring distances, it takes on average about 2.5 million gallons of water to frack one well. So, Meander holds enough water at one time to drill 4400 wells although it is not all needed at one time and, of course, the water is replaced by rain runoff. It also takes, on average, about 4000 TONS of steel pipe for one well also. That is the steel pipe that is produced by V&M Star in Youngstown.

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4billinytown(2 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I think we should ban frackin' in the ytown. We should ban steel production too, that stuff is bad for our health. Let's shut down Maag Library, the mold is dangerous in there. That Lordstown plant pollutes so much, shut'er down. We don't need jobs in ytown. We are fine stayin' home collectin' someone else's money.

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5cambridge(4052 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

In the next two weeks oil companies will be announcing another quarter of record profits.

Lets all vote for romney so he can cut taxes and regulations for those oil and gas companies and celebrate those record profits .

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6billinytown(2 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

yeah, cambridge.. I am right wit u bro. Listen, we don't have money for dis. I need helfcare. I got no job and 5 kids. that romney would never last in my shoes. I just busted one of the 25 inches on my ride to. dat ain't cheap. this cutbak on welfare is weak to. How can a brotha get cable? I cant even get HBO with dis.

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7CongressWatcher(225 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

This article talks about how much water is needed by the industry.... http://www.vindy.com/weblogs/shale-sh...

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8DSquared(1778 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

You don't like the Oil companies? Don't buy their products.

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9lumper(301 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

hey oldtimers !! what if they had built the kirwin/traficant "ditch" from ashtabula to the ohio river ? remember that one ? you could tap into that for h2o and then just release more from the great lakes as needed.

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