A SWELTERING AUGUST LEAVES CORN, SOYBEANS WITHERING IN IOWA

A SWELTERING AUGUST LEAVES CORN, SOYBEANS WITHERING IN IOWA

Corn and soybeans are dying in Iowa fields after the fifth-hottest August on record, the weekly crop report said.

The condition of the crops declined for the second week in a row, and now 11 percent of the corn and 10 percent of the soybeans are in poor or very poor condition."The bulk of the state has gone another week without rain and with high temperatures," said Garren Benson, extension agronomist at Iowa State University. "There are spots where the crop has already turned brown and clearly is shutting down early."

But he added, "Other areas that continued to get some rain have excellent prospects. There's going to be a huge range."

Mr. Benson said the crops look best in the northern third of Iowa and worst in south-central Iowa.

"There are some bad spots all over," he said, noting reports of poor crops in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area of east-central Iowa and in fields with sandy soils in northern Iowa.

In southwest Iowa, Pottawattamie County farmer Larry Kay was pessimistic Tuesday after viewing his crops.

"I went out there and I was very disappointed," said Mr. Kay, who farms near Walnut. "The crops look good from the road but when you get out there the ears are small and they are not filling out."

Mr. Kay said leaves on some corn plants in the area have started to turn brown.

"I think they're in the process of dying," he said.

Mr. Kay agreed with Mr. Benson that crops are in better shape in northern Iowa, but that there are many pockets where yields will be poor.

"It just seems to me that there are many communities that are suffering, even in the good areas," Mr. Kay said.

Temperatures in Iowa averaged 7 to 8 degrees above normal last week, while rainfall was slightly below normal. Temperatures for the month of August averaged 77.6 degrees, or 5.9 degrees above normal.

"This ranks as the fifth-hottest August in 123 years of state records and the highest average of any month since August 1983," said the crop report issued by state and federal agriculture officials.

The corn crop is now rated 12 percent excellent, 47 percent good, 30 percent fair, 9 percent poor and 2 percent very poor. A week earlier it was 15 percent excellent, 51 percent good, 25 percent fair, 7 percent poor and 2 percent very poor. This week's report noted continued instances of corn borers and gray leaf spot fungus hurting corn plants.

Soybeans are rated 13 percent excellent, 47 percent good, 30 percent fair, 8 percent poor and 2 percent very poor. A week earlier, they were 15 percent excellent, 52 percent good, 25 percent fair, 6 percent poor and 2 percent very poor.

"Some reports indicated bean pods are not filling well, and many soybean fields are extremely weedy," the report said. "Grasshoppers continue to be a problem."

The heat speeded up crop development, heading off concerns that late- planted crops will not mature before frost. But that's little consolation for farmers whose crops are withering.