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Unrelenting heat takes toll on yield

As the end of a long hot growing season approaches, XtremeAg farmers Lee Lubbers and Chad Henderson begin to see the effects of stress on yield potential.


Lee Lubbers of Gregory, South Dakota, grew up in the farming tradition, and remembers well using leftover scholarship money as the down payment for his first tractor and rent for 200 acres. Today, he farms more than 17,000 acres of dryland soybeans, corn, and wheat. Lubbers says one of the most important things to him is to always be learning and challenging himself to build an operation and a legacy that the next generation can be proud of.

First, the weather report for west River South Dakota: hot and dry, followed by more hot and more dry. The heat just keeps going and going. We’ve had temperatures ranging from 95° to 115° F. this month and it has been dry. Some mornings we are lucky to have some dew form. I never thought I’d be so excited to see some morning dew on the plants. We’ll take what we can get at this point. 
The rains have been very spotty to non-existent. It’s amazing how the crops can keep hanging on with nothing but hot and dry weather. It’s a real testament to how life of all forms can survive. The weather is taking a toll on bushels at this point, but we’re staying optimistic. We did pollinate well, and the corn has generated full size ears lengthwise. Yet, they are now slowly shortening up and I think 14-16 round will be the norm this season.

A golden field of cut wheat in South Dakota at sunset
Photo credit: XtremeAg

The good news is we are one day closer to the next rain, whenever that might be. Wheat harvest is over and we are very pleased with our yields considering the drought. We had one rain last fall to get it out of the ground, no snow this past winter, and then another rain to keep it from dying earlier this spring. We then got one more shot of rain at heading/flowering time. Mother Nature was extremely efficient this year when it came to handing out the rains. She gave us what we needed, but not a drop more. When we look back at how much we raised on so little, we feel pretty amazed and blessed. We ended up cutting one of our best farm averages to date.
We hauled our last 2021 corn and soybeans out and we are starting on our 2022 wheat hauling. We are also doing a large tiling project with our friends at Hodgman and ADS for the second year in a row. We are continuing to spray foliar products on soybeans for testing in the reproductive stages. Wet or dry, the learning never stops and neither does the work. Stay safe and positive everyone.

Several rolls of black drainage tile sit in a South Dakota farmyard in front of three silver grain bins and some trees
Photo credit: XtremeAg


Chad Henderson is part of a fifth-generation farming operation in Madison, Alabama. Henderson Farms operates over 8,000 acres of dryland and irrigated corn, dryland soybeans, wheat, and dryland and irrigated double-crop soybeans. When not farming, Chad can be found carrying on another proud family tradition as a drag racer for Henderson Racing.

Five ears of dented yellow corn on green plants standing in an Alabama field
Photo credit: XtremeAg

Our corn is about two weeks away from starting harvest. We are still waiting for it to dry out a little more before we hit the fields with the combines. We’ll start with our dryland acres and hope it yields 100 bushels per acre (bpa). This is what happens when you got a few weeks without rain. We average over 50 inches of rain per year in north Alabama, but when we go more than a few weeks without rain, the plants suffer. The heat just bakes the water out of the red clay soil. We went over three weeks at the beginning of July without any moisture. Then we got a few rains that amounted to about 1 inch, depending on where you are measuring. An inch of rain in July with 100° F. days is a recipe for a hurting crop. We applied a lot of stress mitigation products this year to protect the crop. Without those applications, we would be hard pressed to even get 100 bpa this season on our dryland corn. 
Our irrigated corn looks pretty good, but I don’t think it will be as good as we thought earlier in the season. We are probably 15-20 bpa off last year. The plants just can’t handle the unrelenting heat. Eventually it is going to take a toll on them. It takes a toll on all of us.

A green field of irrigated soybeans on Chad Henderson's Alabama farm
Photo credit: XtermeAg

Our double cropped soybeans are doing better than the single crop soybeans. Some well-timed rains helped our double crop soybeans get out of the ground. By planting single crop and double crop beans later in the season, we are spreading out our risk and using our long growing season to our advantage.

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