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Crop Losses to Exceed 1988 levels in Indiana

Chris Hurt(left) Bob Nielsen (right)

The drought of 2012 is worse than the drought of 1988 with projected corn and soybean yield losses to surpass the losses of1988 and 1983. Purdue experts and state leaders gathered on Thursday to assess the situation.  Extension corn specialist Dr. Bob Nielsen said high heat and no rain during corn pollination are reducing yields quickly and drastically, “You can lose a lot of yield in a very short period of time.”  He told a press briefing at the State Fairgrounds that some individual farmers are suffering disaster this year. Dr. Chris Hurt predicted corn yields could be down close to 20%, but Nielsen was a bit less pessimistic, “I think we will see state yield averages down about 13% from average.”  This would still be the biggest yield loss since the 1988 drought.


Nielsen said, with no let up in sight, the drought is turning into one of historic proportions, “A break in the drought and heat for the remainder of the season would certainly minimize further deterioration of the corn crop but would not result in recovery to anywhere close to normal yields.” He added, if the weather does not improve, losses in corn and soybeans will continue to mount and will surpass the losses experienced in 1988. While lack of rain is a serious part of the problem, Nielsen said the excessive high heat is also a major factor, “When you combine this excessive heat with the lack of soil moisture, that is the killer combination.” He said in some places the fields are just running out of topsoil and subsoil moisture.


Purdue Ag Economist Dr. Chris Hurt says one thing that makes this drought different than 1988 is that farmers are in better economic shape. Hurt said farm incomes have been stronger in the past two years and that, with land values at record-high levels, crop farmers have generally higher net worth. Crop insurance also could play a major role in helping farmers avoid devastation this year, Hurt said. About 75 percent of Indiana crop acres are covered by some form of crop insurance.”But crop insurance generally does not provide for full recovery of losses,” he noted. “It is often used to help avoid catastrophic financial losses.”  Hurt said a decline in yields will generate higher corn and soybean prices, but it may not be enough to compensate farmers. “Indiana is the worst hit of the major corn and soybean states,” he said. “This is a situation where Indiana’s average yield losses might not be compensated by high enough prices, and revenues can fall sharply — a potentially difficult financial situation.” Corn and soybean futures made new contract highs on Thursday.


Hurt says record high commodity prices will have a ripple effect through the farm economy and the US economy. “The animal production sector also faces the potential for large financial losses due to much higher feed prices for corn, soybean meal, and forages for dairy, beef and sheep herds,” Hurt said. The effects of the drought also could touch agricultural businesses, such as handlers and processors, equipment dealers, and seed, fertilizer and pesticide providers. Ultimately, consumers are likely to see an increase in food prices of  2.5 percent to 3.5 percent into 2013, Hurt said.


Both men pointed out that this is a developing situation and that, if the weather does not change, things will only get worse.  State officials indicated that an application for a disaster declaration for Indiana is in the works; and HAT has learned that this may be ready by the end of the month.  In addition, emergency haying and grazing provisions on CRP land will likely be announced for several counties next week.


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