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Serving: IN

Some Cornfields Won't See The Combine

Some Cornfields Won't See The Combine
Windshield surveys like playing Lottery this year.

Top this one for a strange feeling. It's nearly Sept. 1, traditionally time for harvest, and a farmer whom you know calls you. After the small talk, he tells you what he's doing. He's driving his high-priced tractor, not his combine, through corn fields, disking down corn. Let's hope that's a nightmare that doesn't repeat itself again anytime soon.

The farmer lives where irrigation pays off, even though the profit margin for irrigated land may be smaller this year than normal. On the input side, he's run far more diesel fuel, at high prices, through his powerful diesel engines to pump the water and power pivots than in most years. Basically, once he started, he didn't stop irrigating until recently.

Second, if past history is any indication and if theories about high nighttime temperatures affecting yields and high temperatures during pollination causing problems, even with irrigation, he will harvest good yields of commercial corn under irrigation, but not great yields- not those bin-busting yields you assume you can produce if you have all the water you need for the crop.

His soil isn't sandy, but it has gravel in many places at 2.5 to 3.5 feet below the surface. In a wet year, it's great ground. In dry years, it suffers. But in 4 decades, it had never suffered like this. "I've never disked up corn before," he noted. "But the insurance people made their estimate and told me I could tear it up." That estimate is believed to be well below 10 bushels per acre.

Is all corn that bad? Of course not. But is there enough good corn, exceptionally good, to offset these exceptionally bad acres he was disking acres that never hit the top yields, but that in most years contribute a decent amount to the overall Indiana corn crop? This year they're a wipe-out- a zero.

The latest estimates by USDA don't show an abundance of corn rated in the good to excellent category in Indiana. It leaves farmers wondering who has the super yields that will offset the 60 to 80 bushel yields that are more legitimately expected in some areas? Or even the 120 bushel yields in counties that typically average 160 bushels per acre?

Time will tell if the corn is out there or not.
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