The Tale of Two Seasons

Little corn shelled until October '09 - Fields already shelled this year.

Published on: Sep 6, 2010

If you believe everything you hear, corn in west-central Indiana started coming out of the field around August 20. If you believe what I see, there was acreage harvested along sandy, gravelly areas in central Indiana by Aug. 27.

Already I've been to one meeting where a hydrologist was talking about we were into climate change. Summers were going to get warmer and hotter. He claimed that at least in central Indiana, this could wind up as the direst August on record. And while he admitted predicting climate change is tricky because by the time you're sure it's changed, it may be changing again, he sounded confident that we should prepare for hotter summers and act accordingly.

Has this professor forgot his history lesson? Just one year ago it was one of the coolest and wettest July months on record, and August wasn't much warmer. Instead of roughly 30 days of 90 degrees F or so to date, there were six the entire season. And the year before, in 2008, there were only eight. This is based on central Indiana weather statistics but the temperature data should hold fairly uniform across the Corn Belt.

Climate change, or just Mother Nature proving who is in charge? Last year corn yielded record yields, but came on at high moisture contents. Farmers who hadn't dried much corn for a while remembered that someday they were going to upgrade their dryer. Many did this past winner. Dryers were the hit of the Louisville Farm Show in February. Companies couldn't even promise when they could get them all made and delivered. It was much the same way for storage bins.

Now suddenly some farmers may not get to try that new dryer out this fall, unless they do it just to say they did it, and make sure it works. What a difference one season makes.

It seems premature to go back talking about climate change making it hotter for growing corn here after one of the coolest seasons in memory just a year ago. Last fall was the toughest fall for harvesting and drying in 35 years. This might be the earliest in who knows how many years.

Be ready to get your corn in on time before stalk rots take over. But be careful about making wholesale changes to adapt to a new kind of weather pattern based on the past two years, agronomists advise.