One thing is certain as we prepare to leave 2012 behind and look toward 2013: you won't find anyone recommending that you make major changes based on what you saw or what worked exclusively in 2012. It's even more true if you were in a hard-hit area where drought and hear crippled yield, but it applies across the Corn Belt.
However, Dave Nanda, an independent crop consultant with his own consulting business, based in Indianapolis, and also director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., a seed company in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, says there are a few tips that may make life go smoother in the crops department for 2013.
"First, don't make drastic changes based on what happened this past year," he says. "Mother Nature proved she is still in charge. I was proud of the line that my staff and I developed during my plant breeding career, and which are still included in some hybrids. But nothing could stand up to the extreme drought and heat in the worst-hit areas."
One farmer in Iowa who Nanda consults with on a regular basis still posted an impressive 175 bushel per acre average, although it was down for him. He dug a deep soil pit to find out why his crops still did reasonably well, even though he received only 0.2 inches of rain in June and July, and only 3 inches in August. He found roots going eight feet deep.
That's possible on newer, prairie soils in the western Corn Belt, but soils in the Eastern Corn Belt were limited to four-foot rooting depths in many cases, sometimes less if the soil was over gravel or very dense soil. The result was very low yields, except for corn on soil types that still had reasonable moisture reserves. These are the same soils that lose stand due to ponding and flooding in wet springs. This was their year to shine.
"Don't make drastic changes for 2013," Nanda concludes. "Just make minor changes if you think you need to. The odds of seeing 2012 again in 2013 are extremely slim."