By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The drought has taken a toll on Kentucky's projected crop yields leading up to harvesting, a crop-reporting service said Friday.
Predicted yields for corn and soybeans are down from a year ago, though overall corn production is expected to rise this year due to the much larger crop, according to a report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service's Kentucky field office.
Hay producers took the biggest hit from the prolonged dry conditions, with alfalfa hay production off nearly 50 percent from a year ago.
Tobacco yields are expected to be down slightly from 2006 but overall production was forecast to be up fractionally due to the planting of more leaf, the report said.
The report offers the clearest picture yet of how dry conditions threaten to cut into farm income. The production forecasts were based on conditions as of Aug. 1, coming before this week's blast of triple-digit temperatures across much of Kentucky.
Western and eastern Kentucky are in severe drought, while central and bluegrass sections are in moderate drought, according to the latest Palmer Drought Index.
Even before the dry spring and summer, Kentucky agriculture was hurt by a spring freeze that inflicted considerable damage.
The NASS report forecast corn production for grain at 160.8 million bushels in Kentucky, up 6 percent from last year despite projected lower yields this fall.
Yield is estimated at 120 bushels per acre, down 26 bushels from the 2006 crop, the report said. It predicted that 1.34 million acres of corn will be harvested for grain, up 300,000 acres from last year. This year's total corn acreage harvested for grain is shaping up as the largest in Kentucky in 21 years, it said.
Kentucky's soybean production is forecast at 43.3 million bushels, down 28 percent from the record high 2006 crop, the report said. This year's smaller crop is due to lower yield and a drop in production. Harvested soybean acreage of 1.14 million acres is down 230,000 acres from last year's large production.
Soybean yield is projected at 38 bushels per acre, down 6 bushels from a year ago. The report said rains are needed as the crop goes through crucial development.
Meanwhile, alfalfa hay production is forecast at 540,000 tons, down 48 percent from last year. Per-acre yield was off sharply from a year ago.
The report said the early April freeze severely limited first cuttings in most fields. Dry conditions that followed have limited regrowth, it said.
Other hay production is estimated at 4.40 million tons, down 17 percent from last year. Because of dry conditions, many farmers are cutting their pastures to supplement smaller hay stocks, the report said.
Burley tobacco production in Kentucky is forecast at 154 million pounds, up slightly from a year ago. Yield is estimated at 2,000 pounds per acre, down 100 pounds an acre from last year. The report predicted that 77,000 acres of burley will be harvested, up 4,000 acres from last year.
Dry conditions in spring and early summer limited tobacco growth, but recent showers have helped growth, the report said. Recent hot, dry conditions may limit additional growth as harvest approaches, it said.
Disease damage to burley tobacco has been minimal, it said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)