There are many facets to this drought that I will discuss a few. One of the main issues that drought is causing has been to reduce forage for the close to 100,000 livestock in the County. Grass hay failed to regrow after first cutting and thus there is little grass hay for feed. The market price today soared to over $400/ton almost double from spring. Those grazing livestock and horses are now utilizing their winter storage to get them through until rain returns. This alone will cause extreme economic times particularly this winter when supplies run out and producers need to purchase additional hay. Corn silage acres(@40,000 acres) will need to be expanded to make up for the short crop resulting in less acres harvest for grain.
Some soil types that retain more moisture than others will be close to normal in yield of corn and soybeans while areas that do not retain moisture (or have compacted soils from last falls heavy rains) like that in the northern areas of the county will result in a half crop at best in many cases. Recent rains did little to change the scenario for those growers. The spotty nature of rains have left some with the only choice but to consider chopping the corn early that has failed to unroll in the morning and is dead at that point and begin the thought process to plant perhaps a fall crop to gain addition forage. The first call however needs to be made to the Crop Insurance representative to determine the best options for the grower. Penn State has done some research in forages for fall and by and large August seedings of Oats, corn, sorghum sudan provided about 2 ton per acre of dry matter. There are safety concerns with harvesting the crop ranging from nitrate poisoning to silo gas and the obvious fire concern in these conditions.
Not only forage crops are affected but also the national grain supply is also shrinking due to the drought across the major grain producing states in the Midwest. It is always best to produce local grains but with the current conditions many growers will need to purchase additional grain supplies at extremely high prices. In a recent report on Ag Web there could be a global shortage of soybeans (one of the primary protein sources in all animal feeds).
Fields of any crop locally are faced with fending off tremendous numbers of insect pests. Penn State Pest monitoring system recent trap captures indicate large populations of corn borer, western bean cutworms, yellow striped armyworms to name a few. In addition leaf feeding insects such as Japanese beetles, red legged grass hoppers, and a large population of potato leaf hoppers are a constant threat and supplies of crop protection products are beginning to run dry in some cases. So right now the growers whom fields are surviving well need to be observed weekly for signs of pest feeding and damage to preserve the potential yield that is left.
Livestock growers will need to begin assessing alternative feeds to reduce feed costs. I am aware of one dairy nutritionist that helped save a local grower $1200 in one month by backing out corn and soybeans and using alternatives such as wheat mids and soy hulls and alternative protein sources. There are many other facets pertaining to this drought that are available that better quantify the drought and its impact through drought mitigation websites and water resources sites such as the SRBC site that can give one a better scope of the water supply presently.
We are roughly three weeks ahead of our normal heat accumulation and growers need to realize this and adjust for the early timing for harvests for the remainder of the season. Of most concern is to begin chopping corn at ideal moisture and plant development.