What? A sharply hotter climate and abundant CO2 aren’t good for field crops? But, but … the coal lobby Greening Earth Society said they would be!

Fitting: the photo accompanying this story in The Detroit News shows a huge trailer of corn being deposited at an ethanol plant.

Michigan corn may have been knee-high by July, but a scorching summer has made the harvest one of the worst in the nation, federal statistics show.

Early hopes for a fruitful harvest have given way to predictions of a 24 percent decrease in corn production in 2006 and low levels of field crops such as soybeans, dry beans and sugar beets. The predictions Friday came even as federal officials are predicting record levels of corn production nationwide.

Bob Boehm, manager of the commodity and marketing department with the Michigan Farm Bureau, said browned, curling and dying corn have appeared across the state.

“We never like to be panicking here, but we’ve been watching this develop, and it’s getting more and more obvious that we’re going to have some serious challenges,” Boehm said. “There are going to be some farmers severely impacted.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts harvests of 111 bushels per acre, a decrease of 36 bushels. The forecast follows a bumper crop in 2006 and big hopes for this year.

Poor harvest

While nationwide corn grows toward a predicted record-setting harvest, Michigan’s field crop yields are expected to be below average. Predictions released Friday include:

Michigan corn: Down 36 bushels per acre to 111 bushels per acre
Corn nationwide: Up 24 percent
Soybeans: Down 34 percent
Sugar beets: Down 9 percent
Dry beans: Down 31 percent (down 450 pounds per acre)
Apples: Down 7 percent from 2006; up 4 percent from 2005
Grapes: Up nearly 300 percent from the 2006 freeze
Source: Crop production report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service