Steven Seacrest counts the rows and kernels on an ear of corn in order to estimate the potential yield of the plot Tuesday at Keever Farms near Lincolnton. With an estimated 120 bushels per acre in this field, not counting stalks with double cobs, this year’s crop looks good, he said.
Though severe heat and drought have hit the U.S. Corn Belt states hard this season, conditions generally have been excellent for growing in Lincoln County and across North Carolina, potentially suggesting a big payoff for local farmers.
The Corn Belt is a section of the country that spans the heavy agriculture areas of the Midwest, including states such as Iowa and Michigan.
Though North Carolina isn’t part of the belt, the state has large amounts of rural areas and focuses heavily on farming that includes corn as one of the major crops.
Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Director Kevin Starr confirmed that the crops in the area have been doing well overall, and said that more than half of the corn in the state was rated “good” or “excellent” this year.
A 2007 report showed that Lincoln County contains 638 farms within its borders that produced 58,000 bushels of corn for grain, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.
The Keever farm southeast of Lincolnton, is expecting a yield of 150 bushels per acre in corn and is seeing the best season in five years, according to Leonard Keever. “They hit it right this year,” he said.
Steven Secrest married into the Keever family 19 years ago, and also mans the crops and works on the farm beside his father-in-law.
Secrest credits the timing of the pollination of the corn for the reasoning behind the family’s success this year. The process started around the end of March, before the 100-degree and higher weather started, he said.
Pollination is the most critical process in corn production, according to Ohio State University Extension Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. The group calls this the reproductive stage of corn, where shedding of pollen takes place and the crop starts to take shape. Heat and drought are among the group’s cited factors that can affect how successful the season’s crop will be.
The Keever farm, like many local farms, has been in the same family for generations. Leonard Keever’s grandfather started planting crops in 1934. Keever continues to run the property with the help of his family.
He followed in his father’s footsteps, as his son-in-law is and grandsons will when they are old enough and ready — five generations of farmers, Keever told the Times-News on Tuesday.
Most of the corn produced at Keever Farms is sold to a chicken farm in Shelby; sales have been steady as the lack of rain pushes the climbing prices of the seasonal crop, leaving farmers in flourishing areas in position to reap a profit.
A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report released Monday showed that 48 percent of corn in 18 states are in “poor” or “very poor” shape, due to lack of rainfall and soaring temperatures this year.
The last time crop numbers were this low, was in the late 1980s when the country experienced another serious drought, according to a report from NBC.
The CNN Money website verified that corn prices have increased by 50 percent over the last six weeks and were at a “record high” of $8.20 per bushel on Tuesday, a dollar more than last year.