If you farm on the sandy plains near Lafayette or on gravelling ground near Flat Rock in Shelby County, this is a tough year. Corn yields likely topped out at 90 bushels per acre, more or less, and soybean yields, while not as well documented so far, certainly don't sound like anything to write home about. For some, they may be something they want to forget about quickly.
At the same time some in western Indiana think it's been a great year. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University corn specialist, says he's heard of plot yields nearing 250 bushels per acre in southwest Indiana. Yet only a county away corps 'burned up' and yields are expected to be much lower.
This season has degenerated into a tale of the rain gauge, or so it seems. Jim Facemire, Edinburgh, received 32 rains from May 1 until harvest began around September 5. But all that amounted to a whopping 5 inches, more or less! And only one rain was an inch or more. The next biggest rain was under a half inch. Coupled with sweltering heat and virtually no rain in August, his corn yields on gravelly ground are in the 80 bushel per acre range, and soybean yields look very disappointing.
Yet it's better than Facemire would have expected based on what he saw when he started farming there some 30 years ago. Yields in a year like this then were down around 40 to 50 bushels per acre on hot ground. He believes it shows how much improvement corn breeders have made since then, coupled with new technologies over the past decade or so.
Jim Williams, Franklin, received only 0.15 in August. He shared that information with Greg Preston, Indiana Ag Statistics director, when Preston and Janet Worland, a supervisor, visited Williams' farm to inspect an official collection site for the September crop report. They will use data from the same site when they begin collecting data for the October report. That data is collected in late September. There are roughly 200 corn and 200 soybean collection sites in Indiana.
Even Nielsen, the corn specialist, is amazed that Indiana's yield estimate went up, not down, from August to September. Many super-high yields will be needed to offset stressed field-yields, and while he's heard and seen good yields, he's not seen much above what he saw a year ago, when yields weren't quite as variable across the state.
Time will tell. In over half the years out of the last 35 when temperature is above normal and rainfall below normal for the three summer months in Indiana (June, July and August), yields go down from August through final yield estimates for the year. This would be only the ninth such year with that weather combination in three and a half decades.
But while temperature is fairly consistent over a wide area, rainfall is not, especially this year. So not all of Indiana will fall into that type of year, even though the state average still indicates such a season. Right now, that's the only explanation standing between a yield projected above average for Indiana statewide and a hard-to-explain scenario.