Wheat harvest big surprise amidst worsening drought

Authored by Jim Langham on Jun 27, 2012

Area farmers, whose concerns are growing daily in the midst of a deepening drought, received a big surprise last week when they discovered one of the best wheat crops in years in the fields.
Jeff Lehman of Lehman Feed Mill noted that most yields exceeded what was anticipated, and in some cases returns were in the 80 and 90 bushel per acre range. Even more important, Lehman said, was the exceeding high quality of the wheat.
"What a surprise," said Lehman. "For one thing, the harvest was two weeks ahead of schedule. It is already pretty much done. It turned out really well; the quality of the grain is just excellent.
"A lot of the wheat was over 60-62 test weight," continued Lehman. "In a good year we are happy with a 59-62 test weight. This was a beautiful surprise to all of us."
Lehman attributed much of the wheat's bounty to the fact that the weather stayed dry after the wheat headed.
"It stayed dry when it pollinated," Lehman said. "Wheat is a dry weather crop; the dryer it is the better.
"That's the good news and we thank the Lord for our wonderful wheat crop," continued Lehman. "Now for the other side, I'm afraid that our corn is starting to slip on us. The biggest fear is that it will go into pollination already in the midst of heat and dry weather. That would really hurt the pollination of the crop. It really needs a cool down and some rain, and pretty quick."
Lehman said that conditions have been so dry that there is very little dew in the mornings, a source of moisture to the corn stalks. He noted that it was prevalent for a couple of days following last week's showers, but is no longer there.
Lehman projected that corn has about two more weeks before major slippage begins and that beans may have up to a month.
"The corn got off to a great start; it rooted down nice, the stalks looked good, but I'm starting to see some unevenness right now," observed Lehman. “There's no question that those crops that got out early are doing the best.
"Now, there's nothing out there, no apparent change of pattern," added Lehman. "I'm afraid it's going to become much more difficult, even to put on chemicals because the weeds are starting to harden up with this dry weather. We have great farmers in this area; they know what to do, but even they can only do so much. We really need the cooperation of the weather. It's in the Lord's hands, what else can we say."
A special bulletin issued late Monday from the National Weather Service in North Webster was not encouraging.
"While the region is enjoying a cool down with highs in the 70's and lower humidity values, this will abruptly end with dramatic warming Wednesday and especially Thursday as high pressure responsible for the 100-plus temperatures over the central and southern plains edges toward this region," stated the weather bulletin.
Tuesday, the National Weather Service stated that temperatures on Thursday could very well be in the 100-105 range, with nearly a repeat on Friday and temperatures remaining in the 90s through the entire period.
"The heat and lack of deep moisture will aid the drying process already underway across much of northern Indiana and northwestern Ohio," said the NWS. "Drought conditions will likely worsen further with continued impact on hydrological and agricultural interests."
Weather specialist Rick McCoy, who is monitoring drought conditions daily in conversation with weather officials, said that he wished he had better news on a long range basis.
"Unfortunately, the seasonal prediction just released indicates that widespread drought conditions are expected to worsen over a great deal of the central part of the nation, including the local area and most of the corn belt, through September," said McCoy. "Of course, things could change. The remains of a hurricane or tropical storm moving up the Mississippi Valley would be a wonderful thing for agriculture, but current patterns are taking those up the east coast.
"One weather observer said a couple of days ago that it's beginning to look like 'no man's land' out there in some parts of northern Indiana right now," said McCoy. "That's pretty serious language; I don't believe I've ever heard them use that term before. The prospect of beneficial moisture is very grim right now."
McCoy said that even light showers or storms producing a half inch of rain or so don't do a whole lot because with present heat and low humidity levels, the evaporation rate is ranging up to two inches a day.
"It's going to take a lot of rain over a long period of time to get things moving in the right direction again," said McCoy. "Thank goodness, in most communities, there was plenty of ample water supply in reservoirs and sources of water when this started."

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