Corn yields vary widely this year based on soil type and other factors. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
BLOOMINGTON - Central Illinois farmers are more than half way finished with the 2012 corn harvest, and the process has been, in a word, interesting.
If farmers like Jason Lay didn't know better, they might think something was wrong with the yield monitor mounted in the combine cab as yields vary widely even within the same field.
"Overall, it's probably a tad better than what I had anticipated, which is always good when corn is worth as much as it is. But yet, it's mind boggling," said Lay, who farms in western McLean County. "When you see an area, you're just constantly asking yourself, 'What if it would have just rained one time?' And there are pockets that got that rain in July and pulled off just ridiculous yields."
During one pass on Tuesday, the yield monitor in Lay's combine showed yields well over 200 bushels per acre, and then quickly dropped to 60 bushels per acre as the machine came to a rise in the land. A lot of the variability relates to the soil type and water holding capacity.
"Obviously where you don't have the water, it just couldn't sustain its life to produce a good enough ear," explained Lay.
The conditions this year have presented some other challenges and decisions to make, as well. Lay has ability to dry and store corn on his farm, but is not doing that this year due to the risk of aflatoxin.
"It's just a decision based on the risk at hand due to aflatoxin, and I made the decision probably the latter part of July," said Lay. "Especially here recently it has reassured the decision we made. Heard some ethanol plants have even gone down to four parts per billion. I wasn't willing to take that gamble."
Lay hopes to take away something from the experience of growing the crop this year as he does every year, but under these conditions he also realizes a big picture approach is important. One thing he knows for sure is that this year's harvest will be quickly finished.
"That part I'm not used to at all," said Lay. "I'm used to being up all night and drying and running bins and fixing stuff. We're half way done with corn and it doesn't even hardly feel like we've started."
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.