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A 1988 repeat? Not yet, specialist says

Jeff Caldwell 06/20/2012 @ 12:10pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Don't stick a fork in your corn crop just yet, because even though the heat and dryness so far this growing season's taken a toll, it's not done yet.

Though the highest potential corn yield may be out the window in some areas, it's too early to "hit the panic button," says Purdue University Extension corn agronomist Bob Nielsen. Sure, the crop's hurting in some places, with leaves curling during the heat of the day, but the good thing is the way it stands now, the crop could still spring to life soon if the faucet turns back on.

"It is among the earliest onsets of severe, dry weather we've had in at least the last 25 years or so," Nielsen says. "The big concern now is as we approach pollination statewide. We can lose an awful lot of yield potential per day with drought stress during pollination."

There have been a lot of comparisons already between 2012 and 1988, a year of major drought in the nation's midsection. BUt, it's not that bad yet. Look at Nielsen's state of Indiana, for example: just shy of 40% of that state's corn crop is rated good-to-excellent right now, but that rating makes Indiana a garden spot when compared to 1988, when at this point, less than 5% of the crop was in those 2 categories.

"Yields that year ended up 31% below the predicted trend yield for that year," according to a Purdue Extension report. That means conditions right now hold good and bad news for farmers, Nielsen says.

"Crop condition ratings at this point are nowhere near as bad as they were in 1988. That's the good news. The bad news is that we're already worse than we were in 1991," he says. ""We don't want a repeat of '88 and '91. It's not a disaster yet. We still have opportunities to recover. There has been yield loss that we won't recover, but I don't think it has been dramatic yield loss."

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