Welcome To The Indiana Dessert

Hoosier Perspectives

Memories of former droughts come 'flooding' back.

Published on: July 9, 2012

I've just returned from a meeting featuring the vast majority of Purdue University's campus specialists and well over half the Extension ag educators in the state. Jim Mintert, assistant Extension Director, called meeting to make sure everyone was on the same page as far as how bad the drought was in various parts of the state, and what messages Purdue could be telling people that might help them make more informed decisions in bad situations.

So while I wouldn't say the day was uplifting, it is reassuring that our land-grant university in Indiana is mobilizing to do anything and everything possible to put information at people's fingertips related to coping with and managing through what's already a rough season. In the end it could be a calamity for many Hoosier farmers, at least in the short run.

Jay Akridge, Purdue dean of the College of Agriculture, noted that they couldn't make it rain, although he offered to dance if it would help. No one took him up on it. But he said Purdue Extension can do everything possible to ease the burden of making the best choice out of lousy options for producers hardest hit by this extreme summer.

No one was ready to say it will turn out to be as bad as 1988, the last big drought, followed closely in parts of the state by the 1991 drought, but on all the graphs and figures passed out and pointed out by Bob Nielsen, corn specialist, and Chris Hurt, Ag economics specialist, it's approaching 1988 in an eerie fashion. If there's some relief in rain this week and a return to at least normal temperatures, it will help.

Truth is the '88 drought broke about mid-July. Folks in the Indiana State Climate Office don't see an end in sight to the overall warmer than normal, drier than normal trend. They missed the winter forecast badly. No offense, guys, but here's hoping you miss this one too!

I remember the drought and early heat in 1988 very well. My wife, Carla, and I were expecting our second child, Ashley. Carla always swore she would never be pregnant in the summer or during state fair. So what did 'we' do? She was pregnant during what was then the hottest summer in 50 years. She went to the state fair. And we even went to a big field day at Van Wert, Ohio on our way to Columbus, Ohio, for a meeting. I still remember her seating, begging me to leave and push our two-year old across the baking wheat stubble to the car. It was only 95 degrees, and naturally, being the economical couple we were, and being tight, our first car didn't have air conditioning, and it was black to boot! What a pleasant ride to Columbus!

I remember checking the cornfield my brother and I owned and had no-tilled just after a rain about July 20. I came out of there not sure if it would make anything or not. As it turned out, it made 80 bushels per acre.

I also remember the drought of 1983, another big Indiana drought. It came later in the season, and since I had never experienced a drought farming, so I convinced dad to contract corn at $2.72 per bushel in late June. That was an unheard of price for that year. Well, I soon learned what happened when you're the one that doesn't get rain. We filled the contract, but he never let me forget that we gave up more than $1 per bushel by doing that move. He said we'd never contract again.

Never is a long time. We did, and next time it paid off.

If I was farming I probably would have contracted this spring. Glad I'm not farming- I'm just raising hogs and sheep and buying feed that's gets higher by the day- smart, huh?

Sitting here today looking at the still brown dessert outside, it's about like 1988 all over- I don't know if corn around her will make anything or not. That's a scary feeling, even if it's not my corn.

Hoepfullly it wi;ll, and this will be just a bad memory. If not, hopefully you'll have at least some grain to sell, or that you at least have crop insurance. And here's my pledge to you. I can't make it rain either and I can't dance, but I can fill our Website with information from Purdue and other places that will at least help you answer questions that could make decisions easier, or prevent you from making costly mistakes that might add insult to injury.

We'll get through this together as Hoosiers. We always do. Only the good Lord knows how, but he'll help us come up with something. He always does. May God bless you today!