Another Roller-Coaster Ride in Indiana

Hoosier Perspectives

Weather plays favorites yet again.

Published on: June 27, 2010

Two weeks ago Ray McCormick, Vincennes, thought he had one of this best corn crops ever. Now, 400 acres are under water in the White River bottoms. And it was just beginning to tassel. The problem wasn't rain at Vincennes, it was rain in central Indiana that goes down the White River. And this was before the flood waters of last week headed south.

Two weeks ago farmers in western Benton  County thought they were looking at 220 bushels of corn per acre. In a matter of minutes, some fields went form 220 to zero- literally! "One field looks like it's been chopped off for silage," one observer reported. The field was waist high before 120 mile per hour winds and golf-ball sized hail arrived. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University specialist, confirmed that field will not recover.

Some fields hit by hail in Benton County, Knox County and elsewhere will recover, but yields will likely be reduced to some extent, depending upon the amount of damage. And waterholes showed up after last week's rain all the way from Anderson across to Lebanon in the north-central part of the state. Roads were so deep it wasn't inviting for a stranger, aka me, to travel down two days after the storm. It made good pictures, and that's about all.

The story isn't over. Farmers about one and a half counties in all down the eastern side of the state struggled to get corn and beans planted. Many did little or nothing in May. Some still have beans to plant. One farmer in the center of the state said he'll have to take prevented planting on some 300 acres, and some of it isn't bottom ground.

A season that started with such promise, with wheels turning in fields by April 20 or before, went into actual summer last week n disarray. Who knew that would be by far the best planting conditions of  the year for many? How quickly the weather can turn!

And despite all that, there are still tremendous corn and soybean fields in every part of the state I've been to, except the far eastern side. So don't be surprised if the first crop estimate comes out from USDA in early August and once again the story is a strong corn crop and soybean crop with high state average yields. Farmers like McCormick will be scratching their head, and why not? But the truth is if your corn went into the ground in late April and you escaped floods, excessive rains and hail, yields could be awesome, baring further disaster, like drought. Oh yes, there's no guarantee what comes next.

This won't be a year when you can look out your back door and gauge the size of the state or national corn crop. That may prove true whether the view outside your back door is green and growing, or beat up and yellow.

It's the third year in a row Mother Nature has taken Indiana farmers on a roller-coaster ride. Let's hope there's a soft landing at the end of this one for as many people as possible.