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A Look Back At 'What Might Have Been'

A Look Back At 'What Might Have Been'
This just wasn't a good year for corn in the Central Corn Belt.

The end of October is a fitting place to end our Crop Watch '12 series. The field that we observed during the season has been harvested. Winners in the Crop Watch '12 contest sponsored by Seed Consultants, Inc., have been selected and will be announced in the December issue of the magazine. Because the yield was so variable on the contest field, they were asked to guess what the final number would be on the October Crop Report issued on Oct. 11 for the state.

This just wasn't a good year for corn in the Central Corn Belt.

Looking back, it was a year that began with great potential. The Crop Watch field was planted April 20. Chicken manure was applied ahead of time and nitrogen was sidedressed once the corn was up and running. With good populations well-spaced thanks to a meticulous planter operator, the yield potential looked as high as 200 bushels per acre. That's probably stretching it since some of the soils are over gravel, but with rains at the right time, it wasn't out of the question.

Rains didn't come at the right time, notes Dave Nanda, director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. For long stretches, they didn't come at all. From May 12 through Aug. 4, about 1.5 inches of rain total was received on the field.

The real killer was the heat. With pollination running early followed by an attempt at an early grain fill, the process was underway when the hottest stretch of the summer unfolded.

"Corn could handle heat or drought, but it couldn't handle both," Nanda says.

The other lesson that soon became apparent was that soil types can play a tremendous role in years like these. The dark, poorly drained, wet ground in the field yielded more than 100 bushels per acre, while the other four soil types average about 2 to 20 bushels per acre. Two of these soil types were over gravel- two of them weren't over gravel. The stress was just too great, and shoots emerged after pollen was gone in many cases.

Our pre-harvest estimate after walking the field extensively was 41 bushels per acre. The actual yield was 55 bushels per acre, thanks to the dark, wet soil. In one to two years out of five, that soil doesn't raise a good crop because it floods and ponds when seedlings are trying to get established.

The best thing we can say about Crop Watch '12 is that it is over. Now we can look forward to Crop Watch '13.

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