Real estate agents talk all the time about what it takes to get prime value for a property, or in today's market, at least be able to sell it. It's 'location, location, location.' The problem is, even the most aggressive, most productive real estate agent in the world can't do anything about where the property for sale is located.
Ken Scheeringa, with the Indiana state climate office located at the Midwest Regional Climate Center at West Lafayette, views Indiana's summer growing season for '07 in much the same terms. "The catch phrase for summer weather was timing, timing, timing," he says. When did rain come vs. when crops needed it? And just like the real estate agent, even if you did everything correctly, there's no substitute for getting rain at the right time. If you didn't get it, there's no way to turn mediocre yields into the higher farm averages that you normally pull in.
"Corn favors cooler than normal temperatures at the pollination stage," he explains. "That's true even at the expense of slower accumulation of growing degree days during that period. We found that true even when I was doing corn field research."
Guess what? Despite the lack of rain and weather that, on average statewide, was hotter than normal, it wasn't in July. Every crop reporting district within Indiana reported an average lower-than-normal temperature for the month, usually by 2 degrees F or so. If you think back, the hottest days you experienced this summer came maybe in June, for sure in August and even September, but not as likely in July.
Timing, timing, timing!
On the flip side, soybeans do their most important reproductive work in August. Pods form and fill. By contrast, August was a scorcher, up to 6 degrees above normal in the southern third of Indiana. As weather deviations go, a 6 degree swing causes a weatherman to take notice. That will likely influence a crop, and it did.
At least one farmer reports he can tell exactly where shade from a tree line broke off in his soybean field. Beans weren't good right next to the trees, but for several feet from there to the edge of the shade line, they were very good. "They got a couple hours less of that hot sun in the afternoon, and it must have made a difference," he concludes.
Rainfall also was a matter of timing. In August, northern Indiana finally got rain, sometimes more than farmers wanted. But the net result was rain totals way above average. In the south, the rain gauges stayed eerily dry. In central Indiana, numbers for crop districts as a whole, stretched north to south, say one thing, but rain gauges at individual stations within the district say something else. The break line was around U.S. 40. Below, rains were harder to get than above it in August. Soybean yields reflect it.
Timing, timing, timing!