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"J. Paul Till, Director, Information Department"
334 613-4313

MONTGOMERY Intense heat and little rainfall has caused drought-like conditions throughout much of south Alabama and has all but ruined much of the corn crop for area farmers.

Goodwin Myrick, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said even with some recent scattered showers in the Wiregrass, the heat and lack of rain has taken a near-fatal toll on the corn crop. However, if soil moisture can be restored within the next few days, the other major crops such as peanuts, soybeans and cotton should be in good shape, he said.

An estimated 75 percent of the corn crop in the Wiregrass has been lost due to the drought, said Ron Weeks of the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland. Statewide, farmers planted an estimated 300,000 acres of corn this year, an increase of 10,000 acres over 1997. Cash receipts for corn in Alabama totaled $50.1 million in 1997.

Pike County farmer Mike Wilson said his 200-acre corn crop is lost. One of his fields, which was planted around March 1, should be above head high, he said. Instead, it's already tasseling and is barely waist high.

"Last year, in a nearby field we made about 150 bushels of corn per acre," Wilson said. "This year, we'll probably chop this for silage," he said while gazing over his drought-stricken cornfield. "That's about all it's good for -- if that."

Cattlemen throughout much of central and south Alabama are finding forage in short supply this summer. The lack of rain has reduced summer grazing and hay production. Many cattlemen are feeding hay that was cut earlier this year spring -- hay that usually would be stored for winter.

""This could have a very detrimental affect on cattle for the upcoming winter,"" Myrick said. ""What we really need is a good, soaking rain throughout the state. If we are able to get adequate rain over the next few days, we could still end up with a good year overall.""

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