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New vantage point puts 2012 in perspective.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

December 28, 2012

2 Min Read

Figures don't lie, but liars figure. You've heard it a million times. Most of the time it's not liars trying to mislead, it's just people who are misinformed or working with only the data that they have. Sometimes it's someone trying to make a point.

You've heard everything from the drought of 2012 wasn't as bad as 1988 to worst drought since the '50's to worst drought since the 1936 season. It all depends on what geographical area you're checking, and what data you're looking at.


Based on weather data published in Indiana Prairie Farmer in the September issue, gleaned from Ken Scheeringa, associate state ag climatologist, 2012 fit 1936 best in terms of low rainfall and number of days over 90 degrees and 100 degrees. The 2012 season improved comparatively after that, but it was too late to help all but a minority or corn fields planted in mid-May or later.

Recently, Bob Nielsen took a different approach to put the season into perspective for corn growers in Indiana. He plotted out departure from trend yield going all the way back to 1866 and the days of open pollinated corn. In 1936, for example, yield was obviously below normal, but the expected trend yield was only in the 20 to 30 bushel per acre range in the first place. Today the average trend yield is around 165 bushels per acre in Indiana. Trend yield is what's predicted for the season based on past performance, and the amount of increase in yield per season over time.

Nielsen discovered that at 100 bushels per acre, that's a 38% departure below trend yield in Indiana in 2012. That is the biggest departure from normal on the low side since recordkeeping began in 1866.

So if you want to see it was the worst year for corn in Indiana in recorded history, no one could prove you wrong. Even 1936, the year old-timers talk about as so hot and dry, which it was, only produced about a 28 to 30% departure below normal in trend corn yield.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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