Environment Held All the Aces in Indiana This Year

Hoosier Perspectives

Different aspects of weather and soils determined yields.

Published on: October 8, 2012

The more I talk to Hoosiers in different parts of the state, the more it's obvious that whether you had good corn, poor corn or no corn at all basically came down to when it rained, how much it rained and what soil types you had in the field. When you planted and which maturity you planted, both corn and soybeans, made some difference, but the overshadowing factors were rainfall or lack of it, coupled with the soil type supporting the crop.

Here are the observations of one farmer. I've heard similar statements repeated over and over again, sometimes with lower numbers in the 'boxes.' We had 50 to 100 bushel corn here, but up the road a few miles, they caught an extra rain and they're talking about 130 bushels per acre. Still further up in the next county, they're better yet. One guy just started shelling his irrigation field where he grows commercial corn, and he's seeing yields up to 290 bushels per acre. "

A handful of factors affected yield this season.
A handful of factors affected yield this season.

If you're living where yields of 0 to 50 were more common, that may explain why USDA has stuck so far at 100 bushels per acre for Indiana. Irrigated corn isn't the answer – only 3% of Indiana's corn is irrigated. One would have expected the heat to take the top end of most of it, but perhaps not. The answer is that there were a few garden spots in north-central and northwest Indiana that caught rain, and a few more that caught less rain but a very timely rain in mid-July just before corn went over the brink and point of no return.

I've said this since August and I haven't changed my mind. In most years there are pocket droughts in Indiana and across the Midwest. Sometimes it's a township, county or maybe a few counties adjoining together. The rest of the state may have a normal to above normal crop in those years. The average comes out at trend yield or above.

This year the tables were reversed. Instead of pocket droughts, there were pocket garden spots, or at least a few spots that received rain when they needed it, albeit sometimes just in the nick of time. The rest of the state is far below normal. That's why even if USDA sticks with 100 bushels per acre, it's still far below the trend yield of 166 bushels per acre that Indiana farmers should have produced this year.

If you're a young farmer, you probably thought 2012 could never happen, not on your farm. I thought that back when I was farming on the side with my dad as a young pup in my thirties. Then 1983 came along. I had no more illusions that we couldn't get hit with a drought. If I did, they were doused in 1988.

So if you were in that boat, you should go into 2013 a little wiser and savvier. Will it be a repeat of 2012? The odds heavily say it shouldn't by about 24 to one. But there is that one, and you never know when snake eyes may pop up again. Nothing says it has to be exactly every 25 years.

Hoosiers will be ready next time.