Some farmers may expect record yields this year
Planting during a dry April, followed by spring rains in June, should translate to a winning season for most local farmers, said Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt.
While soybeans are a tough call at this stage, Hurt said farmers across the state, including Northwest Indiana, should expect record corn yields because of favorable weather conditions for pollination.
“How you get started determines how the race goes,” Hurt said. “You don’t want to flash the sign that the corn crop is made, but the next two weeks look good. The blessing was that early to mid-April allowed so much field work to be done…The farmers made good progress.”
Still, those driving through rural counties of Northwest Indiana can see lush, tall corn in one field and stunted corn in another.
“(Recently) I was out checking the fields, and some corn is over my head while some is at my knees,” said Lyndsay Ploehn, the agricultural agent for the Purdue Cooperation Extension Service in Valparaiso. “We started out doing really well. In the last month, though, most fields have wash-out areas. We’re not getting enough dry-out time.”
Fresh from spraying some of the 1,000 acres he farms in south Lake County’s West Creek and Eagle Creek townships, Dan Sutton said a record corn yield seems too optimistic.
“Our early planted stuff looks good, but I don’t see an above average yield. We’ll be lucky if we make average on corn,” he said.
Much of the corn planted by local farmers has been drowned out where fields were flooded, and some areas didn’t get planted at all, including 25 acres he owns, Sutton said.
The saying may be that “rain makes grain,” but only after the Fourth of July, Sutton said. Many farmers chose to not plant in April because the normal first frost-free day is May 10 in the northern part of the state. He said it was a gamble to plant early.
“Mother Nature runs the show,” Sutton said.
Getting ready to harvest wheat after a sunny morning spraying in his fields, Tim Stoner, of Valparaiso, said most of his corn was planted in April.
“We started fast, and we’ve finished slow,” he said. “However, I believe we’re off to a good start in Northwest Indiana.”
Some farmers with acreage north of U.S. 30 in Porter County may still be planting, Stoner said.
It may be too late to plant soybeans in areas where corn would have been, Ploehn said. In Porter County, specialty crops such as tomatoes and onions seem to be faring well, she said.
The delayed planting of soybeans and the past three weeks of rain have not helped the soybean crop. Hurt forecasts corn yields will be up by about three bushels across the state, or an estimated 169 bushels per acre. It is possible that soybeans could improve by as much a half bushel higher than the average of 49 bushels an acre yield.
While some fields did not get planted, Hurt said that U.S.Department of Agriculture records show 97 percent of soybeans in Indiana were planted. Soybean yields in Indiana and across the country will be determined in late July, August and early September, he said.
If Hurt’s predictions are correct, farmers may be saying, “I’ve got a good crop, but I can’t get much for it.”
It costs about $4 a bushel to raise corn. He predicted corn crop prices at harvest will come in between $3 and $3.25 a bushel. That’s down from $3.40 a bushel in 2008. All the 2009 numbers are not yet in.
Soybeans farmers may get $8.75 to $9 a bushel come fall, but that number is also down from the $9.50 a bushel seen in 2008, he said.