Drought Worsens: 'One in Three Cornstalks Don't Have Ears'

Corn crop is devastated; farmers hold out hope for soybeans

Reports of farm crop damage are coming in fast and furious. Paul Queck, a long-time friend and the former editor at Indiana Prairie Farmer, just completed a whirlwind tour across the Midwest this past week, ranging from Indiana to Iowa to northern Michigan and back. Here is what he saw.

"Farmers in Illinois and Eastern Iowa probably won't believe it, but the corn looks the worst just south of Indianapolis and in an area north of Fort Wayne, IN to Marshall, MI," he says. Paul lives in Indianapolis and reports just .75 inch of rain since May 1 (and .09 since June 1). In a normal year his area would have 10 or more inches rainfall from the May 1 to July 10 period.

"In a nearby cornfield about 1 in 3 cornstalks don't have ears," he says. "And, it's not clear if the ears that are present have kernels. If we don't get rain soon the kernels that are there will abort or be very small." For the most part, the corn in Indiana appears to be done pollinating.    

Paul's brothers-in-law farm in eastern Iowa just west of Cedar Rapids and it is dry there but they have had more moisture than in Indiana. "Most of the corn was just starting to pollinate and so could be helped by rain," says Queck. It's also just starting to pollinate in western Iowa (50 miles west of Des Moines) where Paul's brother farms. "It is greener there than here and even Eastern Iowa, but the corn was rolling," he says. "The 90 degree temperatures with no rain that are predicted for this week will be hard on pollination."

Farmers everywhere seem hopeful about soybeans. Queck saw some very short beans north of Fort Wayne that looked terrible. But for the most part, it seems good rains could enable most farmers to produce a fairly respectable bean crop. "Even the farmer nearby me here in Indy is hopeful that he could have a fairly good bean crop if rains would come," he says.

Paul's brother in Iowa, wanting to lock in some new crop beans thinking that bean prices might really plunge when rains do come, went to his local elevator to ask about selling some for fall delivery. His elevator wouldn't buy them. "They are fearful that if farmers don't have a crop and can't deliver, that they would go through a lot of hassle and bad publicity and would rather not buy any fall beans at this time," says Queck. 

That leaves his brother to hedge himself on the board. "Don't know if he will do this," says Paul. "Like many farmers, he is reticent to do anything while prices are spiking and while he is so unsure how much they will have to sell." 

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