2012 Colorado wheat, corn and hay alfalfa yields down from 2011 levels due to drought

Production of Colorado corn dropped 29 percent in 2012 due to the deepening drought that’s gripped the central U.S. and parts of Colorado, according to figures released by the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service. Other crops — wheat and hay alfalfa — showed smaller declines.

The Jan. 11 NASS report shows that Colorado corn production fell from 172.9 million bushels in 2011 to 134.3 million bushels in 2012. Over 1.42 million acres were planted in corn in 2012 versus 1.5 million acres in 2011. The corn yield stayed the same from year to year, at 133 bushels per acre.

Wheat production fell 9.3 percent, from 81.8 million bushels in 2011 to 74.8 million in 2012, even though acres harvested increased by 6.7 percent — from 2 million acres in 2011 to 2.2 million acres in 2012.

“The drops in output from 2011 to 2012 are hands down due to the drought,” said NASS Colorado field office director Bill Meyer.

And 2013 doesn’t look good, according to Meyer. So much so that some Northern Colorado farmers are moving from corn crop to less moisture- and irrigation-dependent crops, such as wheat.

“Farmers still had subsoil moisture in early 2012, plus the reservoirs were full from the heavy runoff from 2011’s snowfalls,” said Meyer. “Because of drought conditions, we don’t have that much-needed subsoil moisture this year, and the reservoirs are low.”

“We need moisture,” he said.

Colorado corn crops were valued at $1.07 billion in 2011 and the average price received per bushel was $6.15. AgWeb.com estimates the 2013 corn bushel price at $6.80 to $8.

Production of Colorado hay alfalfa dropped 10 percent in 2012, to 2.6 million tons, from the 2011 total of 2.88 million tons. 750,000 acres were planted in hay alfalfa in 2012 versus 800,000 acres in 2011.

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