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State's farmers are losing crops to hot, dry spell


The hot, dry summer is taking its toll on Maryland's field crops, particularly on the lower Eastern Shore where some farmers are reporting 80 percent to 85 percent loss of their corn harvest and the total destruction of double-crop soybeans.

"Crops are burning up in the field," M. Bruce West, head of the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Crop Reporting Service, said yesterday.

"My guess is that there will be 50 percent losses of both corn and soybeans on fields in the southern Eastern Shore," he added. "We've gone 30 days without significant rainfall. That's too much."

James M. Voss, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Maryland Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service office in Columbia, said conditions vary from farm to farm.

He listed Queen Anne's, Caroline, Wicomico, Saint Mary's, Charles and Calvert counties as regions where farmers are reporting that one of the hottest, driest summers on record has destroyed 50 percent to 85 percent of their corn crops.

"The situation is bad," said Mr. Voss. "But it is not as bad as the drought in 1993." State farmers reported more than $21 million in crop damage two years ago.

Mr. Voss said some areas of a county can have severe damage while other regions are reporting almost normal growing conditions.

"Wicomico is a good example," he said. "Eastern Wicomico has been devastated, while farms in western Wicomico will have fair crops."

He said that the corn and soybean crops in Central and Western Maryland should be close to normal.

Mr. Voss said the double-crop soybeans -- planted in early July after the harvest of winter wheat -- will be very poor at farms in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. "It has been so dry the blossoms are falling off the plants and the pods are not big enough to be harvested," he said.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the state go to the poultry industry.

Mr. Voss said most commercial vegetables grown in the state are irrigated and are in good shape.

Mr. West said the state will have a better assessment of the full impact of this year's drought damage on Tuesday, when the department reports the results of field surveys now taking place.

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