The corn crop was likely permanently damaged by the time the August USDA estimate was made, released Aug. 11 based on data as of Aug. 1. The critical period for corn, even for corn planted late, is July, and the heat wave that dominated the Eastern Corn Belt probably means that in Indiana, at least, there is little recovery that corn can make. In fact, some believe the estimate may drop as it did last year once enumerators get into fields and find some of the unusual and less than 100% efficient pollination patterns some farmers are reporting.
"We are in the garden spot in northwest Indiana, and I don't see us having 200 bushel per acre corn," a White County farmer says. "So where is the above average corn going to come from to make up for the 70 and 80 bushels per acre corn we're hearing people talk about in some parts of Indiana? I just don't think it will be out there. I don't think numerators will find the pollination success they're expecting when they visit their plots again. Too much tip abortion has also occurred."
The one positive possibility, especially in Indiana, is that soybean yields could come up from the relatively low expected yield of 43 bushels per acre listed in the August USDA report. One county Extension educator from northern Indiana says he sees hope for the soybeans. August is their critical period. But he's in an area that has received more rain than most areas within the past three weeks. Even at that, the part of his county with lighter, sandier soils is hurting, he says.
Part of the problem with soybeans in all but northwest Indiana is that they were planted late. Many areas have yet to get the rains, and even with cooler temperatures, many may go through podfill on limited reserves, unless rains come. That could affect pod abortion and soybean size. Those two factors in turn can affect yield. Some soybeans were planted so late in wet spots and in areas where it stayed wet for a long time that they were only knee-high or less in early August.
Soybeans planted late don't mature as late as they were planted. Instead, they also catch up to a certain degree, notes Shaun Casteel, Purdue University soybean specialist. This means that August will still likely be the critical period for all but the latest-planted soybeans. If the rain doesn't come in August, soybeans may not get the yield boost some think is still possible.