Drought hurts agriculture - Purdue Exponent: Campus

Drought hurts agriculture

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 10:00 am | Updated: 6:24 pm, Wed Oct 3, 2012.

By MATTHEW MARTIN

Executive Reporter

The drought over the summer cost will have a detrimental effect on crops and livestock for several years to come.

Purdue’s campus has also been affected. Gary Evans, the director of grounds at Purdue, wrote in an email about how many new plants struggled to survive the drought and how water had to be conserved so flowers and trees could survive.

“We definitely have experienced a higher-than-normal rate of tree and shrub losses, the effects of which we anticipate will continue for 12-18 months,” Evans wrote.

Otto Doering, a professor in the College of Agriculture, said most farmers will weather the drought because they have federally funded crop insurance.

“When you have a drought like this and yields go down, the insurance kicks in and the farmer is subsidized for their losses,” Doering said.

Dan Egel, a Purdue extension plant pathologist, said some independent producers were not affected by the long drought because of the efficiency of their irrigation systems. Those with better irrigation systems could keep their plants healthy.

“The growers who had irrigation this year did pretty well, but those who did not, did not do so well,” Egel said.

The lessened water flow led to inferior products on the market and a loss of revenue for the growers. Some plants were not affected, such as pumpkins, because of the time at which they were planted in the ground. Egel said growers had trouble getting plants to sprout; after that, most plants seemed to grow well. One positive effect of the drought is the decrease in the number of diseased plants.

Although there are fewer diseased plants, according to Corinne Alexander, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture, the prices of crops have risen compared to last year.

“The drought has greatly increased the price of crops, including corn, soybeans and wheat,” Alexander wrote in an email.

While prices can vary daily, corn has increased in price to a midpoint of $7.90 a bushel. Last year, the price was $6.25. Soybeans have increased from $12.45 to $16 and wheat has gone from $7.24 to $8.10.

Doering said these price changes have a major effect on another branch of agriculture – livestock. He said that grass is not growing and farmers are forced to feed their livestock hay, which has quadrupled in price.

“Anything you want to feed an animal has gone up (in price),” Doering said. “All those feed costs have risen dramatically.”

Christopher Hurt, a professor in the College of Agriculture, said livestock production will drop due to large losses this summer and fall. This will also increase the price of meat by about 3 to 5 percent. Hurt said beef supplies will remain low through 2015 as a result of the drought.

“When that supply drops, consumers will have to pay higher retail prices for food,” Hurt said. “The USDA expects food prices to rise by 3 percent to 4 percent in 2013.”

Another worry stemming from drought is the state the ground will be in during the next planting season. Doering said the ground does not have enough moisture to sustain crops and will not have enough moisture unless there are large amounts of fall and spring rains. Hurt said the National Weather Service is predicting the eastern corn belt winter as warm and dry which would not rebuild soil moisture this winter.

“Unless you get enough rainfall, the plants will have a tough time without that reservoir of water,” Doering said.

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