Corn and soybean production dropped substantially in Maryland in 1987, compared to the previous year -- a decline that agricultural experts attribute mainly to reductions in the amount of cultivated acres.
The state's Agriculture Statistics Service said 35.9 million bushels of corn were harvested last year, 15 percent below the 1986 level and 49 percent below 1985's record crop.
The average yield last year was 78 bushels of corn per acre, which is five bushels below the 1986 average and 40 bushels below 1984's record average.
Maryland's 1987 soybean production totaled 9.23 million bushels -- 12 percent below the 1986 harvest and 28 percent below the record production year of 1985.
The average 1987 soybean yield was 22.5 bushels per acre, 4.5 bushels below 1986 and 9.5 bushels under the record 1978 and 1985 crops.
State officials say the amount of corn acres harvested was 460,000 -- 21 percent below 1986 and the lowest acreage since 1972.
The amount of soybeans harvested totaled 420,000 acres -- 30,000 acres more in 1986 but 5,000 acres less than 1984's record mark.
Production declines also were recorded in Maryland for rye, tobacco and sweet potatoes, but increases were reported for winter wheat, barley, oats and hay.
"I think a major reason for the decline is the 1985 farm bill that paid farmers to take land out of production," said Jack Matthews, a spokesman for the Maryland Farm Bureau.
Matthews said last week that "pockets of drought" on the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland also reduced grain yields, primarily of soybeans.
The Farm Bureau spokesman said he expected further production declines in Maryland in 1988, with more farmers taking part in the federal program aimed at reducing U.S. grain surpluses.
"The farm program certainly offers an incentive, especially with the drought we have had for the past two years. Farmers are a little skeptical. They're wondering if a drought could happen a third year in a row," Matthews said.
"We are heading into a situation where hopefully the surplus will gradually be depleted, but we aren't there yet," he said.
The spokesman noted that although the United States as a whole has a grain surplus, Maryland actually "imports" grain from other states to feed its booming broiler chicken industry.
Matthews attributed the upswing in wheat, barley, oats and hay cultivation to Maryland farmers' efforts to diversify their crops in response to recent dry growing seasons. There are about 17,000 farms in Maryland.