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Kentucky corn crop in critical moment due to heat and drought

U.S. Geological Survey

As the unrelenting heat continues across Kentucky, medical experts are reminding
people to drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. But it’s not that simple for farmers who depend on Mother Nature to water their acres of corn.

Kentucky’s corn crop is in a critical moment.

University of Kentucky Extension Professor Chad Lee, who specializes in grain, said 30% of Kentucky’s corn crop is at a key point of growth.

“We’re right at the period of time where tassels come out and we go to pollination. And so that’s very sensitive for water stress in and of itself, but the corn is also at peak demand for water," Lee said. "It’s going to demand more water now than it does at any other point in its life cycle."

“This next 7-10 days is absolutely critical for the corn crop. If we miss this window, we’ll have some severe damage to the corn yields around the state.”

Lee said less than 10% of Kentucky’s corn acreage is irrigated. He said that hasn’t been a major issue for the past 10 years, since the last severe drought that hurt the state’s corn crop was in 2012.

The hot and dry weather is also stressing Kentucky’s soybean crop, but Lee said soybeans can adapt better to the lack of water.

Rhonda Miller began as reporter and host for All Things Considered on WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans. She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio, as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio. She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass.
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