Indiana corn crop is at a crisis

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Impacts of drought in Indiana are getting serious for crop producers.

All crops are suffering, but corn is nearing its pollination phase when dry weather can quickly reduce yield potential. A few southern Indiana cornfields have started pollinating, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicating that 2 percent of the state’s corn was silking as of June 17.

Yield potential is likely wilting along with the parched crops. At the start of the growing season, Purdue estimated Indiana corn yields to average 166 bushels per acre. There is no precise way to determine actual yield potential while the crop is still this early in the growing season. But the USDA’s evaluation of crop conditions three weeks ago showed that only 8 percent of Indiana corn was in “very poor” and “poor” condition, the lowest two of five categories. In the most recent report, released June 18, that had grown to 24 percent. The decline in Indiana corn conditions in the past week are among the largest in the last decade.

Crop condition ratings as a proxy for corn yields suggest that the potential has dropped to about 151 bushels per acre, a reduction of 15 bushels from earlier expectations. Most of this reduction has come in the past two weeks, with nine bushels in the last week alone. The magnitude of a reduction of 15 bushels per acre across the state adds up to nearly a reduction of 90 million bushels from normal.

Weather is the key to what happens next to the corn crop. With favorable rains and moderate temperatures, yield potential could still recover if those improved conditions came quickly. On the other hand, continuation of recent hot and dry conditions would cause yield potential to drop even more rapidly in coming weeks. The last week of June through the first half of July probably will be the most critical period in determining final corn yields for the state.

Soybean conditions have also dropped, with state yield potential falling to about 45 bushels per acre, from an expected average of 49 at the start of the growing season. A reduction of four bushels per acre across 5.1 million harvested in Indiana means 20 million fewer bushels. Soybean yields are more highly influenced by late-July and August weather, so there is more time for growing conditions to improve and for yield potential to recover, compared with corn.

At current crop prices for this fall, the reduction of 90 million bushels of Indiana corn and 20 million bushels of soybeans has a value of about $750 million. While all sectors of the state’s agriculture economy are being affected by dryness, corn and soybeans are the largest individual components by value.

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