Drought in Hoosierland
Think you’re dry? Well, there are many northern and central Indiana farmers who are in the same boat. Here’s a look at some fields that Gil Gullickson, Crops Technology observed during a visit to northern and central Indiana last week.
“We have some areas that have had only 2 inches of rain since the beginning of April,” says Kip Tom, a Leesburg, Indiana farmer. In these areas, corners of center pivot irrigation fields are showing the classic “pineapple” symptoms of drought.
Fortunately, being able to irrigate shines in a drought year. It costs money to pump water for corn, but it does ensure a crop, Tom says. Last week, this field was eye-high and rapidly growing. On dryland fields, being able to stand up to stressors like drought plays a greater role in hybrid selection.
One drawback to irrigation is that it creates a higher disease environment. “We scout and understand what is going on in those fields,” says Tom. “Typically, we use fungicides (in those fields) and have seen positive yield responses.”
Crops continued to struggle as I moved south. These sharp-looking soybeans east of Sidney, Indiana, were no-tilled into standing corn stalks. The moisture that no-till saves gives soybeans like these an edge in dry years.
This dryland corn near Urbana, Indiana, was fighting off drought stress. However, it still was hanging in there. "Clearly, there are some truly severely stressed regions of the state," said Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist in a Purdue news release. “But if you look at the state as a whole, the corn has hung in there amazingly well."
The next stop I made was at Lasater Farms near Gaston, Indiana. “For only getting an inch of rain here from May 1 to June 20, things don’t look to bad around here,” says Scott Lasater. Until the 90-plus degree temperatures of the week of June 17-24, the area had cool weather combined with dewy nights. However, corn planted on clay soils is starting to fire on bottom, he says.
Lasater farms a wide variety of soils, ranging from low-organic matter ones to high peat soils with 20%-plus organic matter like the one this corn is planted on. In a drought year, the moisture-holding peat soils shine, producing tjos field of deep green and tall corn. These soils are a mixed blessing, though. In many years, they are wet and delayed planting frequently results.
One dry weather bright spot is that it’s excellent harvest weather for wheat in the area. This field near Matthews, Indiana, has likely been harvested by the time you see this.
Corn in Indiana is nearing the crucial late June to early July pollination period. Pollination has already started in some fields in southern Indiana. Drought stress like this slices pollination and yield potential. "The big concern now is as we approach pollination statewide," Nielsen says.” We can lose an awful lot of yield potential per day with drought stress during pollination."
The good news is the crop appeared in better shape as I neared the Indiana-Illinois border. This field is near the border town of Kentland. Hopefully, moisture-deficient areas in the Hoosier state will catch some much-needed rain before pollination starts in full force.
See some of the most severe drought conditions in the Corn Belt.