Big in Ag: 2013 crop's ups & downs

  • 01

    It's been a year of major extremes for corn and soybean farmers in the nation's center in 2013, a year in which farmers rode the coattails of a major drought in 2012. And, the wild ride started early.

  • 02

    As early as mid-April, many farmers who'd faced severe drought in 2012 were struggling through the opposite problem. Cool temperatures, rain and even snow kept early planting strides short.

  • 03

    Things finally opened up by the end of April and beginning of May, when farmers finally took advantage of a warm, dry system to get corn planted. But, that didn't stem worries about early crop emergence.

  • 04

    Late May rolled around and there were still a lot of acres unplanted. And, a lot of those acres -- especially in the northern Corn Belt where the faucet never really stopped all spring -- stayed that way, leading many farmers to file crop insurance indemnity claims because of prevented planting.

  • 05

    The late planting -- and acres left unplanted -- stirred some early interest in ways to keep intact the soil in trouble fields. Conservation practices like cover crops saw a lot of interest early in the growing season.

  • 06

    Once July rolled around, the early worries about excessive moisture were a distant memory. A massive drydown hit around midsummer, which doubled the challenges faced in those wettest soils earlier on in the growing season.

  • 07

    As harvest approached, expectations for crop yields ranged as widely as the volatility in weather throughout the growing season. But, though there were some major deviations from the trendline in both directions, a lot of expectations were higher by late July than they'd been earlier in the year.

  • 08

    But, though warmer, drier conditions settled in over the nation's center during the latter half of the growing season, the wet, cooler weather from earlier in the season still cast a long shadow as late as August in terms of crop development. Growing degree days were well short of normal as the homestretch hit.

  • 09

    As harvest neared, there were growing worries that the heat and dryness -- which ultimately got GDDs caught up to normal in August -- were going to rob yield potential further. Still, most farmers said they were more worried about slow crop development by mid-August.

  • 10

    But, harvest started out in some spots by September. There were a lot of widely variable results early on, with some farmers saying early yield tallies ranged from "as bad as a frost" to "far from a crop failure."

  • 11

    As combines started rolling in earnest later in September, the variability continued, though it was also paced by yield reports that exceeded earlier expectations. That would end up continuing through the fall in many spots, farmers said.

A wet spring, a dry summer and some new production systems highlight a wild crop year in 2013.

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