Weather allows crops room to grow

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Mark Hochgesang of Jasper says you can’t count your eggs before they hatch when it comes to planting crops. He planted his corn crop early in the spring and had promising forecasts of ample rain — but Mother Nature turned off the rain during the summer. Hochgesang harvested 40 acres of his bottom ground near St. Anthony on Tuesday. Many Dubois County fields are expected to yield double or more what they did during last year’s drought.

By TONY RAAP
Herald Staff Writer

Hot, dry weather that has choked parts of Indiana has largely bypassed Dubois County cornfields and farmers are preparing for what they hope is a decent harvest.

According to a weekly crop and weather report released this week by Purdue University, 82 percent of Indiana corn is in the dent stage, meaning it’s nearing harvest.

Last year at this time, 95 percent of corn had reached that stage. The five-year average is 83 percent.

Harvesting has begun in some of the earliest-planted fields. Most of the work, though, will be done in October.

“Some of the early corn really looks good,” said Gene Mehne, who grows corn, wheat and soybeans and raises hogs and cattle east of Portersville.

But the soybean crop “could use another rain or two,” Mehne said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s drought monitor, which was updated this morning, shows that about three-quarters of the state is abnormally dry.

A swath stretching from Indiana’s northwestern corner to the middle of the state is in moderate drought. Weather conditions in Dubois County are listed as normal.

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Austin Kunz of Dubois made sure the truck didn’t overflow as it was filled with corn harvested from his family’s land in Dubois on Thursday of last week.

Mark Hochgesang grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs south of Jasper, including on land near St. Anthony, with his brother Joe and nephew Kyle.

The summer had a few dry spells, which will cut into the yield, he said, but not by much.

He has heard other farmers say they expect to lose 20 or 30 bushels of corn per acre because of dry conditions. Many fields in Dubois County are expected to yield about 240 bushels per acre.

Last year, when intense drought strangled much of the Midwest, the average corn yield statewide was 99 bushels per acre, according to Purdue.

Compared to last year, “it looks like it’s going to be a good harvest,” Mark Hochgesang said.
The other week, the Hochgesangs walked their field to check the quality of their crops. They have begun harvesting corn that was planted early in the season.

“It’s going to be all right,” Joe Hochgesang said. “The corn crop is going to be decent. How decent? We don’t know yet.”

Corn usually is planted first. Soybeans generally are planted a few weeks after the corn is in the ground. As a result, soybeans are harvested later.

According to Purdue, 40 percent of soybean acreage is shedding leaves compared with 61 percent last year at this time. The five-year average is 44 percent.

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Mark Hochgesang scraped the last bit of corn from the back of the truck Tuesday morning to be stored and dried on his Jasper farm.

Farmers say that if any crops are lost because of dry conditions, the losses will be limited to corn and soybeans planted later in the season. Some believe the crop is already made.

But that isn’t true, said Bob Nielsen, a Purdue Extension corn specialist.

A corn crop is not “made,” he said, until a thin black layer can be seen at the tips of the kernels, signaling that it has reached physiological maturity.

A common misconception among growers is that they don’t have to worry about yield potential when corn has hit the dent stage.

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Brandon Seng of Dubois harvested corn on his family’s land in Dubois on Thursday evening.

“Actually, by the time a crop reaches full dent, only about 60 percent of the crop has been made,” Nielsen said. “There is still 40 percent of the potential yield on the table yet to be determined.”

He urged farmers to regularly walk their fields and look for signs of stressed crops.

“Certainly not every field of corn is in dire straits at the moment,” he said. “Certainly there will be fields of corn that yield well or possibly better than they ever have in the past.”

But some fields, he said, will see yield losses because of dry conditions.

Contact Tony Raap at traap@dcherald.com.




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