Drought continues to worry most producers in the Western Corn Belt. While the folks to the east of us have received some welcome fall precipitation, our rain gauge has been idle, except for a few light showers. That concerns almost everyone in our area. Yet, planning for profit in the midst of these challenges could set producers up for a very happy 2013.
There are a few indicators that give us reason for some optimism. If you look at fuel prices trending significantly lower these days, it truly relieves one of the big expenses for all farmers. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, area crop consultants are reporting great quantities of residual nitrogen in the soil this fall, in some cases up to 200 lbs. of N, unused by drought-stressed crops last year. This means that farmers most likely will not have to purchase quite as much nitrogen to fertilize their 2013 crops. Good news indeed.
There are also early indicators that producers will not only employ new drought-tolerant varieties of corn as much as possible in the coming year, but they might also reconsider traditional drought-busting crops like grain sorghum and sunflowers. Nebraska has long been considered one of the top states in the nation in grain sorghum production, because of that crop’s known drought-tolerant traits. Although sorghum production has given way in recent years to corn, there are reasons to believe it may be on the verge of a comeback in some areas.
When we raised black oil sunflowers a few years ago, during a couple of very dry summers, sunflowers were surprisingly resilient, establishing roots that mined the earth for moisture as much as any crop I’ve seen.
If costs are under control, if commodity prices remain high, if we receive a little timely rain and if producers look to new drought-tolerant traits and traditional drought-tolerant crops – farmers might be able to make 2013 a happy New Year on the farm.
I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, prosperous and blessed New Year.
Be sure to watch http://www.nebraskafarmer.com and read our December print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at http://www.DatelineDrought.com