Dave Nanda kept asking me the other day when we met, "what did you learn from 2013?"
One of my first answers was that there are ears in the field, there is life after 2012. Nanda, Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. and a frequent columnist, thought I was kidding, but I was dead serious.
I don't know how many times I asked farmers this year how their corn crop was doing, and their answer was nearly always the same: "Well, at least there are ears out there!"
Even though they may have made more profit when it was all said and done last year, farmers want to grow corn. It is psychologically hard to take when plants suffer and you harvest from nothing to 20 bushels per acre in a field. Many people did that last year.
Just the fact that corn could grow fairly normally this year and produce what are turning out to be very good yields in many locations is a moral victory. It proved that 2012 was an outlier – a year that is way off the charts, that hopefully only happens once in a lifetime.
Riding the combine with a farmer the other day I almost got goose-bumps – well, almost – when he turned on the unloading auger and golden corn flowed into the grain cart picking us up. Just the fact that the grain cart was there because we couldn't make a while round was encouraging. Last year I rode with the same farmer in an even longer field and it took nearly 6 rounds to get a hopper full.
The practical side of what it means is that you make decisions for a normal year, not a wacko year like 2012, and hope you get something relatively close to normal. Mother Nature showed us she is still in charge anytime she feels like it with last year's performance, despite the great technology we have now. But this year shows us that with technology and at least a decent break on weather, we can grow corn yields your grandparents and great grandparents only dreamed about.
The government may be shut down, Congress is in a mess, the Middle East is in turmoil, and there are shootings and killing every night on the news. But in the corn fields of Indiana, in a combine cab with corn coming in and grain flowing out, all is right with the world again. Farmers are back to doing what they do best – raising crops.
It's a psychological boost, and sometimes that's more important than implementing a new practice or planting a new hybrid.