OTTAWA, Kan. - There is an urgency to find solutions among producers who have lost an estimated $18 billion nationwide this year in damage to corn, soybeans and other crops. About 250 of those farmers in the Midwest are testing new innovations that may make crops more resilient to climate change.
Agronomy experts from Kansas State University told a group of curious farmers about the new drought tolerant corn crops at its "experiment fields" outside of Ottawa.
Ron Rumford, a corn, bean and wheat farmer near Ottawa, said he has had some help getting through the drought.
“I guess it’s faith that gets you through,” he said.
Many of the nation’s corn farmers are dealing with drought conditions. New reports from the USDA show nearly half the nation’s corn crop is in poor condition.
Rumford usually sells half of his crop and uses the other to feed his livestock, but this year, the drought has forced him into buying corn to keep his cattle alive. That’s why Rumford was optimistic about the KSU presentation on Wednesday.
“I mean, they’re taking five to 10 bushels more an acre on a dry year like this, and that would be a big benefit,” he explained.
He isn’t the only corn producer excited about the study.
“Corn producers and a number of these test plots are seeing nice benefits from the trait,” said Kraig Roozeboom, of KSU’s Agronomy Department.
The new corn varieties have larger roots that can absorb more water and smaller tassels, which save more of the plant’s energy helping it make more kernels.
“It lets the plant be a plant,” Roozeboom said. “It keeps growing and keeps making seeds on the cob until the next rain comes.”
“It’s going to be a big help to farmers,” Rumford said.
Agronomists like Roozeboom warned the new science would only fill in the gaps in the right conditions. They caution that this year’s extreme heat and droughts, the worst in half a century, still have little recourse for crops.
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