Dave Nanda has ridden combines this fall and seen numbers on yield monitors he didn't believe were possible in the particular fields he was in. Where corn made 80 bushels per acre on a gravelly soil two years ago, it made 220 dry bushels per acre this year, without irrigation. Where extreme dry weather devastated yield and produced a paltry 30 bushels per acre on heavy, unforgiving clay soils two years ago, the yield monitor displayed the field average at over 180 bushels per acre this year.
"Years with rain and cool weather produce corn,." Nanda says. "The big yields many people are seeing are more about having a good growing environment than anything else. It's not about triple-stack hybrids outperforming genetics of the recent past."
Improved genetics is part of the reason yields shot through the roof on some farms this year, Nanda says. For those where rains fell at the right times, it was a year when Mother Nature showed what the genetics of various hybrids could do, given the best growing conditions possible. But when the Indianapolis-based crops and plant breeding consultant talks about genetics, he's referring to much more than just traits.
He's talking about genetic families and the improvement s made through decades of traditional breeding. Newer technologies, including traits, help protect the yield potential built into these modern hybrids, but they're not directly responsible for super-high yields, he believes.
Not everyone is participating in the high-yield bonanza. There were areas that were too dry at the wrong times. Call them pocket droughts if you like, but in some cases they covered several counties. Unfortunately, at least some of the areas that were dry this year were also dry last year.
And even those who do have high yields are remembering what it's like to harvest high-yielding, high-moisture corn. Except for a relatively few fields planted in April, most corn has come out of the field at relatively high moisture contents this fall.
While the early November Indian Summer across parts of the Corn Belt rescued what otherwise might have been a disastrous harvest season, with soybean combining pushed into the winter, it still couldn't field dry most corn down to where artificial drying wasn't needed. As a result, harvest is slow, and Nanda sees many fields of corn still standing in many of the areas where he travels.
Chalk that up to high yields coupled with a drain on dryer capacity. Even some elevators have been hard-pressed to keep up with the wet corn flowing in, especially once soybean harvest wound down.