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Good spring weather means big harvest for corn crops

Sid Rodgers likes everything about his corn crop.

"It's looking fantastic," said the Fauquier farmer, who this spring planted about 2,500 acres of corn, up 700 acres from 2011. "It's got great color, great ear and good pollination."

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, Rodgers rated this year's crop at "seven to eight."

Despite days of sustained dry conditions and hot temperatures, rain and cool weather at just the right time combined for a strong corn crop, he said.

In 2011, Moriah Farm near Warrenton and the land it leased produced an average 121 bushels of corn per acre, he said.

Rodgers, who manages the family farm, expects to surpass that figure this year.

He believes it will be a strong year for corn in Fauquier.

"Most everybody's corn, from south of Catlett and Remington to Warrenton, has had [a] great crop," said Rodgers, who also plants in Culpeper, Rappahannock and Madison counties and sells it for grain to poultry farms in the Shenandoah Valley.

Justin Grimsley, part owner and manager of Edenhurst, his family's farm near Markham, has high hopes for this year's corn crop.

"Early corn looks good, late corn looks good," said Grimsley, who planted 160 acres of corn, 40 percent of which he keeps to feed the farm's 250 brood cows, and the rest of which he sells. "We've been very fortunate at this end of the county."

The Richmond field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service compiles weekly crop reports based on information from county extension agents and other reliable sources from across the state.

Last year, Fauquier farmers harvested 9,200 acres of corn

So far, the statewide corn crop data have been mixed and disappointing.

For the week ending July 15, Virginia's "corn crop condition was 14 percent very poor, 30 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 17 percent good, 7 percent excellent," field office director Herman Ellison said.

In 2011, Virginia farmers harvested about 340,000 acres of corn for grain, Ellison said.

He put the projected the statewide 2012 grain harvest at 350,000 acres.

Ray Pickering, Fauquier's agricultural development director, said county farmers have characterized the corn crop as "spotty" to "not that bad."

Rodgers and Grimsley say that favorable spring weather conditions allowed them and other farmers to get a two- to three-week jump in planting corn this year.

"I started planting April 7," said Grimsley. "Generally, it's the last week of April and the first week of May. We've been very fortunate. I have some excellent corn. We had a good spring."

Last year, he produced an average 120 bushels per acre. "I think this year, it should be 150" bushels per acre, Grimsley said.

He also noted that corn prices last week reached an "all-time high" of $8 per bushel because of the devastation to the Midwest corn crop as a result of drought.

"It just keeps going up," he said of bushel prices. "I don't know what's going to stop it. It's pretty impressive."

A year ago, a bushel of corn went for $6, Grimsley said.

He will begin harvesting in mid-September to early October and Rodgers will begin in the third or fourth week of August.

"I don't want to jinx it," but "I'm feeling pretty optimistic" about the corn crop, Rodgers said. "The next 30 days will be important, because we're entering hurricane season," which means powerful wind and "microbursts" that could destroy the fields.
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