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2012 a crop year many want to forget

Jeff Caldwell 07/25/2012 @ 3:43pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

As this week's MDA EarthSat Weather July Crop Tour makes its way toward its final destination along the Missouri River, one thing's clear: This year's one many farmers will be happy to forget.

Stuart Mager is one of the farmers who hosted the Tour earlier this week on his farm in Park County, Indiana, an area that's seen some haves and a lot of have-nots this summer. Though the field where Tour crop scouts checked yield potential was far from one of the worst examined, there's a lot of ground that's been starved of rain and where the crops have been in serious trouble for some time.

"We've had 7 tenths of an inch of rain since May 1," Mager says. "We figure our bottom ground will make 30 bushels/acre and our top ground may make 80."

The dryness itself hasn't been the sole culprit of yields, but it certainly added to others; Mager says his soils, mostly silt loam, have suffered from a major sulfur deficiency this year. His soils don't have the most organic material in the region, and without enough moisture this year, the nutrients just didn't get where they needed to be.

Another issue he's faced this year is spider mites. Despite the fact he's sprayed multiple times, the bug's thrived in his fields, and with yield potential where it's at right now, he doubts further treatments will do much, if any, good.

"We've sprayed for spider mites and other bugs a few more times. But, at this point, it is what it is. It's too late to do anything," he says. "Do we quit and let the bugs have it?"

Looking ahead, Mager says he has fields that won't see the combine this fall, and it's got him already wondering about the prospect of buying his way out of previous market positions. And, he's not alone.

"We're at the point of buying back contracts. I know guys who have got food-grade corn and the talk at the mills they're hauling to is they won't be able to keep them open," he says.

For his area, the 26-year-old Mager says the drought of 2012 will likely go down as the most severe on record. "My grandpa said when he was farming in 1988, they had more than we'll have this year," he says.

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