Corn can only stand so much. If your soils are droughty and it simply didn't rain virtually at all in June through August, you obviously were very disappointed when you went to the field with the combine, although you likely had an inkling of what you were going to see. There are poor yields, especially in southern Indiana, but also scattered through other areas where rains passed by, that can testify to the fact that it was a tough corn year.
Then why are some farmers, especially in western and northwestern Indiana, not only tickling 200 bushels per acre, but in some cases, averaging 200 bushels per acre on whole fields? How can you do that in only the 9th season in the last 36 where temperatures statewide averaged above normal for the three summer months- June, July and August- while rainfall averaged below normal.
The reason is simple, experts say- averages are just that- averages. If you break out July temperatures vs. August temperatures, as Ken Scheeringa, Indiana assistant state climatologist, did, the results are striking. Every crop district in Indiana averaged below normal in temperature in July, usually by 2 or more degrees F. But in August, every crop district averaged above normal in temperature, sometimes by as much as sic degrees! In weather terms, a deviation as large as six degrees one way or the other is a huge swing that is bound to bring consequences.
The consequences are evident in the soybean crop. While there are a few out there, finding fields averaging 60 bushels per acre plus is like looking for a needle in a haystack this year.
One farmer says his dad always told him that even in years if there was even water, which wasn't necessarily the case this year, if there was too much heat, the corn still might not prove to be as good as people think. But the secret is when the heat comes. If July is relatively cool when pollination and kernel set occurs, that's favorable for corn. That's what happened this year according to weather data.
Jim Newman, retired ag climatologist, has noted in previous years that sometimes when the nighttime temperature stays too high at key times, say not dropping below 75 or so, there seems to be a negative effect upon corn and corn yields. He speculates that corn needs a cooler period to respire properly before the next day. This past summer during July, when corn was making its push toward however much corn it could produce, did not include such hot nights. Nighttime temperatures in July were fairly normal.
Irrigators have also noticed the hot weather effect in the past. Even when irrigating according to a scheduler, yields don't always reach as high levels as they expect, especially if it's hot in July and still warm at night. Since the warm night pattern didn't hold this year, there should not be such a negative effect upon corn yields on irrigated ground.
The bottom line is clear- this was a topsy-turvy year, hardly one to plan for. If you got rain at the right time, if corn pollinated while ti was still on the cool side, …if, if, if…you likely are smiling. If not, you may be visiting with your crop insurance adjustor as we speak.
There's always next year. How could it be any worse? On second thought, let's don't tempt fate and ask!