A farmer friend says it best. "You can have the very latest seed and best genetics, all the traits you want, pour on the fertilizer and control the weeds, but if the weather doesn't cooperate and you don't get water but get too much heat instead, anything you did isn't going to matter."
That pretty much sums up the corn crop for 2012 in a good portion of Indiana. There are some good fields that got rains others didn't, but no one was spared on the heat. So unless your corn pollinated at a perfect time in between super heat waves, it's likely not the best corn you've ever raised. For many Hoosiers, it will be the worst crop ever, and for some, it will be the worst ever by a mile.
Everything comes together and is illustrated in the Crop Watch '12 field we've been watching since the season began. It got off to a great start, planted in late April, and stands were excellent. With good early moisture, Dave Nanda, plant breeder and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., who helped sponsor the Crop Watch program, felt the yield potential was legitimately 200 bushels per acre.
Then came almost three months with a total of less than two inches of rain, a hot June, and one of the hottest Julys on record. Corn planted early pollinated in the teeth of the heat, especially in this field. Stalks were leaning over as tassels emerged. In many parts of the field, there are no ears because there never were any shoots that emerged. In other areas some shoots emerged, but many silks didn't end up pollinated. So on the worst soil types as far as ability to withstand drought, where there are ears, they are small, and some have a total of 20 or fewer kernels.
Even on the better ground, the poorly drained, dark soil that often floods out in normal to wet years, Nanda won't get anywhere near his 200 bushel potential. However, yield estimates run above 110 bushels per acre on that ground.
The problem with those ears is that kernel abortion and die back on the tips is excessive, sometimes two inches or more. This was evident at pollination when during the shake test, with the leaves carefully removed, silks fell off the ear, but a couple inches remained at the tips. Those weren't pollinated.
This crop has also been hit by high nighttime temperatures during pollination and grain fill. Many believe this has shaved 5 to 15 bushels per acre off averages during the past two seasons.
Compared to this season, the past two seem normal.
Too little water, too much heat, kernel abortion, warm nights- the result is a combination of factors that overwhelmed the crop. Any one of them would have taken away some yield potential. As it was, all of them ganging up in one year multiplied the effect. There will be corn in the Crop Watch field, but the yield averaged over all acres won't be impressive.