If you followed our series all season long, you know we didn't get to use the field as intended – as a setting to highlight insects, diseases and crop fertility problems. The original goal was to ask readers and viewers to guess the corn yield of the nearly 60-acre Crop Watch '12 field.
Instead, it turned into a laboratory for learning about the effects of extreme drought and height on corn pollination and grain fill. Here are some of the lessons that Dave Nanda, director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., pulled out of the year.
• Heat effect: The heat was likely more damaging where moisture was limiting than the drought itself.
• Effect on shoots: The lack of water coupled with excessive heat threw off timing in many fields trying to pollinate and put out tassels and silks during the end of June and first of July. Many fields did not put out shoots until the pollen was gone.
• Soil type was king: This was the year where those soils that need drainage and may pond out in a couple years out of five paid back dividends. If you were in one of the driest areas and had any corn at all, it was likely on wet, deep soils.
• Pollen affected: Normally specialists say heat won't affect pollen. However, after several days of 100 degrees plus this summer, specialists now believe that some of the pollen grains themselves may actually have been damaged by the heat, even if shoots were out.
• Planting date matters: Usually early planting pays, but that may have not been the case this year. Corn planted in mid-May tended to miss the hottest week, pollinating the next week. It made up to 100 bushels per acre difference in some extreme cases.
Because of the worst summer in 25 to 75 years, depending upon where you were, contestants were asked to guess USDA's state average yield issues Oct. 11 current as of Oct. 1 instead of the field yield. For the record, thanks to a sizable amount of wet, deep soil, the contest field made 55 bushels per acre. Some areas within the field made nothing.
The yields that will be used to determine winners are: 100 bushels per acre in Indiana, and 123 bushels per acre in Ohio. Look for announcement of those winners soon.