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In this territory, including most of the States of largest corn acreage, the drought was not in time for serious injury to the crop, and the fierce heat of midsummer promoted its growth. To the south of the border thus drawn drought in the early summer and heavy rains at the end of the season greatly reduced the yield, particularly toward the Gulf. The cotton States all send unfavorable returns, Texas calling this crop the "poorest since the war." Late corn seems to have suffered worst in most cases. This was just the area where the yield was exceptionally great in 1895. In Oregon also and a few other States not important for corn the crop was scanty. In New England generally good yield was cut down in several localities by late frosts.
Correspondents make various reports about the quality of the crop. In the great corn States it is generally fair, though there are many local complaints of impairment by insects or smut; while late flooding rains, particularly near the Mississippi, besides retarding the husking and storing of the corn, have rotted a considerable part of it in the shock. Frosts in the northeast impaired quality as well as quantity.
The condition of oats was 98.8 on the 1st of June and 96.3 on the 1st of July. During July there was a serious decline, and the condition on August 1 was only 77.3, heavy rains, rust, the army worm, and chinch bugs being among the chief causes of the unfavorable change. A further decline occurred after August 1 in oats not then harvested, and the average harvest condition for the entire crop was only 74. In 1896 the June condition was 14.5 above and the harvest condition 12 points below the corresponding figures for the previous year. The average yield per acre was 25.7 bushels. As compared with 1895 tho reduction is 1.1 per cent, in area, 13.2 percent, in rate of yield, and 14.2 per cent, in total product.
The crop of winter rye was of course affected to a great extent by the same general causes which affected winter wheat. Its average condition on April 1 was 82.9; May 1, 87.7; June 1, 85.2; July 1, 83.8. The average condition of spring rye was 98.6 on July 1, and 88 on August 1. The condition at harvest for rye in general was 82, the average yield being 13.3 bushels. The area is about 3.1 per cent., the average rate of yield 7.6 per cent., and the total product 10.4 per cent, less than in 1895.
The average condition of winter barley on May 1 was 89.2, against 94 at the corresponding date in 1895. The condition of barley in general on June 1 was 98; July 1, 88.1; August 1, 82.9; when harvested, 83.1. The average yield per acre was 23.6 bushels. The area and rate of yield were each 10.6 per cent, and the total product about 20 per cent, less than in 1895.
The average condition of buckwheat was 96 on August 1, and 93.2 a month later. It suffered during September by wind and frost, and its condition on October 1 was only 86. The average yield per acre was 18.7 bushels, and the quality ranged from 90 to 100, except for a small part of the crop. The area was about 1.1 per cent., the yield per acre about 7 per cent., and the total product about 8.2 per cent, less than in 1895.
The average condition through the season is shown by the following figures: July 1, 99; August 1, 94.8; September 1, 83.2; October 1, 81.7. The chief decline in condition occurred during August, the causes mentioned by correspondents comprising drought in many States, excessive rain in a series of States extending from Pennsylvania as far westward as Iowa, and blight, rust, potato rot, and insect ravages, particularly those of the potato bug. The average yield per acre was 86.8 bushels, against 101 bushels in 1895, a reduction of more than 14 per cent. The area was about 61, per cent, and the total product about 19.2 per cent, less than in 1895. Fifteen States had an increased crop as compared with 1895; Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, Indiana, South Dakota and West Virginia being the more important ones.
THE GRASSES AND THE HAY CROP.
The condition of pastures throughout the season is represented by the following figures: May 1, 93.2; June 1, 94.5; July 1, 91; August 1, 93.9. The August figures were 16.1 points higher than those for August 1, 1895.
Clover had an average condition of 88.4 on June 1 and 83.7 on July 1, newly sown clover having in general fared best, notwithstanding some damage from grasshoppers. The figures for August 1 indicated 81 per cent, of a full crop, and although considerable damage was done by rain during harvest, the average quality was reported at 89.5.
The condition of timothy was reported at 84.8 on the 1st of July and 87.5 on the 1st of August. The highest figures occurred in States west of the Mississippi, including a number lying partly in the arid region.
The average yield per acre for hay of all kinds was 1.37 tons. This was an increase of 29 per cent, over 1895; the total crop, on an area 2.1 per cent, less, being 26 per cent, greater than that of the year named.
Planting was somewhat delayed by wet weather in large parts of Mississippi and Texas. Elsewhere it was on the whole earlier than usual, but over an extended area germination was retarded by drought. The average condition throughout the season was as follows: June 1, 97.2; July 1, 92.5; August 1, 80.1; September 1, 64.2. Drought was the chief cause of so low a condition—the lowest September average in twenty-seven years. Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee were the States which suffei'ed most severely, but no state of any importance in cotton production showed a decline of less than 18 points between the 1st of July and the 1st of September. It is, however, the general testimony of the county and State reports received in December that the crop will be considerably larger than was at first feared, chiefly because warm, dry weather at the end of the season permitted better maturing of the later crop. The top crop will be short in most states, almost a failure in some. The total production is expected to exceed that of 1895, owing to the large increase (16.2 per cent.) in the acreage.
The following table, compiled from the reports of a special list of farmers whose returns the Department employs as an additional means of ascertaining the rate of yield of various crops, will be of interest &s furnishing an independent comparison of corn and wheat production for the last three years:
YIELD PER ACRE.—INDIVIDUAL RETURNS.