A Farmer’s Look Back at 2010

Hoosier Perspectives

The year that could have been, wasn’t and was.

Published on: December 20, 2010

Next week, before the old year rings out, I’ll take a personal look back at what 2010 meant for me and my family. This time, I’ll put on my farmer hat, made up of many colors, just like Joseph’s coat, because I try not to be partial to one brand or another, even though that’s not the easiest thing in the world to do.

When the growing season started, hope sprang abundant in the Midwest. Tractors rolled early compared to the past few seasons. A good share of the crop went in relatively early. Then rains came, and the tale end went in relatively late, close to or after Memorial Day in the eastern Corn Belt.

That great yield potential across the board seemed to dim, unless you were one that planted it all early. A few did. And a few got caught planting late. Then June was wet to hip-wader’s deep wet, and some crops wouldn’t recover. Normally corn in late June recovers from ponding. This year I saw many patches where it flat-out died, especially in Shelby, Hancock, and Boone Counties. Probably the heat had something to do with it.

If your corn wasn’t flooded out, it still looked a year with a lot of potential. Early-planted soybeans were churning along. Corn looked green and healthy. This was the season that could have been- record setting yields.

In fact, it looked so good in late July when field enumerators checked fields for USDA that USDA said Indiana would produce its first billion bushel corn crop. That was the season that wasn’t- by the time Chelsea Nord and her Purdue Collegiate Farm Bureau  member-friends got to the Crop lockup in Washington for the September report, record yields were off the table. You will see her report and can read about her experiences in the soon-to-come January issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. As a bonus, Arlan Suderman, our market analyst, previews what he thinks the January 12 final crop report for 2010 will say about the season that was.

So we’re stuck with the season that was—great beginning for many, too much water for some, then too little for most. Corn planted early wasn’t hurt so bad by the lack of water, but soybeans were. Even so, soybean yields were respectable, they just weren’t the bin-busters they could have been. How many times did I hear: "If we just get one one-inch rain in August, they’ll make 70.” That’s the season that could have been.

Most people didn’t get it. Low 50s turned out to be a decent yield- That’s the season that was.

And the heat—corn doesn’t like hot, sticky nights any better than I do. Some diseases do, and they helped make sure the season that ‘could have been’ wasn’t. The high nighttime temperatures forced corn to burn up energy it should have saved for putting starch into kernels.

So the season that was is a year where yields were average for some, great for a few, lousy for some, and far enough below what USDA expected to produce great pricing opportunities.

It’s hard to paint this season with a broad brush, but then it seldom is. Learn from it and go on. That’s what my corn breeder friend Dave Nanda says, and he’s seen about 50 of these seasons come and go. Some had great promise, some never did, and then some were, well, just average…kind of like 2010.