Chris and his Dad scout our fields regularly and he's always bringing in plants and corn to show me, so the other day I made him take me out and show me and let me take pictures of what is actually going on in the fields - yep it still pretty much sucks!
This field was the last we planted, May 17. We walked into the better soils in this field.
This ear missed pollination, most likely due to extreme heat.
Looking down the rows you should by no means be able to see this far!
This field is 100 yards away from the first field, but it was the first field we planted, April 12.
It has some corn in the low ground. These ears have a lot of rows, but are very short and kernels are very shallow. If this field was consistently like this, it might yield in the low hundreds, but this is the best area.
This is where the ear tipped back, or aborted kernels it had intended to set.
These beans were among the first planted, and this area is among our best soil types. Normally they would be chest high.
They are podded, but instead of 40 or more per plant, there is about 6,
and the seeds, which normally now are plump and swelled, are tiny.
This is some lighter soil we farm. There are no ears in this area. Doesn't even look like corn. Last time this field was in corn it made 200 BPA.
We finally found one.
But it didn't pollinate well. This field might yield in the single digits.
This field of beans became infested with spider mites in mid July. We sprayed them, and you can see new growth in the damaged areas, but they are having trouble recovered due to the lack of moisture.
Here is a good ear, but the kernels will be very shallow and light. This field will be over a 100 bushels per acre.
This ear had a lot of potential,
but lost half of that potential due to aborting for lack of moisture.
A different ear of corn just a few plants down.
These beans are a lot taller
But they only have 9 pods at this point.
They did flower but aborted the flower to move on up the plant and when they aborted the flower no pod was produced.
Marietta West Hill
This field is across the road from the field I think will make over 100 above. It has more rolling ground.
It has ears. They look good.......but
another fooler. Looks OK till you peel back the shucks this field may make 30 bpa - truly no way to tell because we have never been in this situation as well as within each field the crop is so varied.
In 1983, and 1988, the most recent severe dry spells on our farm, our corn averaged in the 80 bpa range. I don't think it will be half that this year, but I hope I am wrong. We have had dry weather in smaller doses in other years more recently, but not as persistent as this year. We had 2.3" in May, which is a less than half of normal, but now sounds moist. We had no measurable rain in June, with very hot days, nearing 100, which came earlier than usual. July had more 100 degree days, and around 1/2" rain. This of course varies widely - these amounts are on our home farm where we measure, we also farm in a 15 mile radius, there have been a few fields in that area that have received more and some less.
We carry crop insurance, and it will prove it's worth this year for sure. Not all farmers carry insurance, as it is expensive, and many years isn't needed. Our challenge will be feeding our hogs. Not only will corn be hard to find if we don't grow enough, but it will be expensive. The hogs also eat a lot of soybean meal, which may double in price from what we paid in the winter of 2011. Our feed costs could easily be $90,000 higher than last year, and we are a very small hog farm. If we could stop the flow of hogs we would, but it is not something that can be shutdown overnight, or started back up easily. By the time the severity of this drought was realized, we already had 9 months of production in place, as from breeding to market is about 280 days. The pigs that will need 2012 corn are already on the farm, or are about to be born. We plan on toughing through it, so the farm is already in operation when things get straightened out. Corn will get cheaper, as 2013 supplies come available, and hogs might go up, as production is reduced. I would like to just turn off the switch for a few months, but that is not how it works.
I do however consider ourselves fortunate this year. I personally have not suffered this drought like farmers 100 years ago would have. I come in at night to an air conditioned house that has water available on demand. I do not depend on my garden for my next years food supply, I will be able to find grain for my livestock, and move it here if necessary, it is only a matter of higher cost and inconvenience. The damage to us is purely financial, and a substantial part of that will be covered by our insurance, which has improved greatly in the past 20 years. The tools that we have available to manage our work are truly marvelous, and we are so accustomed to them we overlook them, and take them for granted. The tools of people 100 years ago all had handles, now we have switches, and steering wheels, and electric motors. $40 worth of garden hose will put water anywhere on the farmstead that we need it for a garden and/or livestock, we are not carrying buckets from the well, I am not out in the sun hoeing my corn, or forking loose hay onto a wagon. We as a family still feel the physical and emotional toll this has taken but still consider ourselves fortuante and lucky to live this lifestyle that even during hardtimes we love.
This is how the drought affects us! The cost of corn in a box of corn flakes is minor compared to the advertising, packaging, transportation, and labor to produce. But grain is a major expense in meat production. Feed often makes up 80% of the farm gate cost of milk, beef, pork and chicken. Cows are being culled as pastures dry up, reducing the future cattle supply. Not all sows will be rebred, as some producers exit the industry. Total meat supplies will probably contract, raising prices at the grocery.