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Serving: IN

Farmers Await Harvest With Lots of Questions

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season makes yield outcomes unclear.

Arguing this growing season didn't have two distinct halves would be tough. It started out cool and wet – wet enough to delay planting or at least push it back beyond where most people like to start. Then it brought rain in June, too much in some places, just enough in others. July was cool overall with adequate rain in many places.

Here comes the split personality. It went from a cool and wet trend to a hot and dry trend just in time to burst the bubble of those dreaming of high soybean yields for the fourth year in a row. With some cool days sprinkled in, there was also record heat, all the way through last week.

Those who thought they had a record corn crop now aren't so sure. One farmer in central Indiana told us that during the last week of July, he walked fields and thought his whole farm average could realistically top 200 bushels per acre. His previous best was 184.

He doesn't think in terms of 200 bushels per acre anymore. He would be happy just to top 184. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, says that he's right to think that way. Stress during the late season, especially with a crop that was finishing grain fill late, can knock yields more than you might imagine. If it knocks it 10%, and it would have been 200 bushels per acre, that's 180 bushels per acre. Unlike the young bucks of the techno generation, I don't need a calculator on a cell phone to figure that one out.

People were writing articles for our October issue about the bin-busting corn crop and the huge harvest. I had to tone those down. Someone said it went from excellent to great to good in a matter of weeks.

The fact is, there will be plenty of corn to harvest. It's far from a replay of last year, at least on the corn. It could be a reverse of last year for soybeans, with early-maturing varieties doing better than later-maturing varieties trying to fill pods with beans during dry, warm conditions. Time will tell.

In the end, it is what it is – another season where weather is in control. It's always in control. There's plenty of things we can do to give crops an edge, but there's nothing we can do that will trump Mother Nature if she feels like winning.

It looks like it might be her turn to lay down her cards again.

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