Production Blog

Muddy Boots Muddy Thinking

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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This late-planted and very wet field in Indiana is typical of many this season where the rains have just kept coming. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (DTN) -- Show farms are typically just that -- showy --with control strips to serve as reminders of what happens when farmers fail to manipulate the environment. However, the event I attended at Dow AgroSciences' Show Farm last week was proof that weather still holds the trump card over our most sophisticated science.

Dow scientists and marketing managers rolled out a new above ground corn trait stack called PowerCore (SmartStax minus the rootworm component). They bestowed the name Resicore on a new herbicide premix with three sites of action. They unveiled a new corn portfolio for the Western Corn Belt bred to better withstand stress. They talked about products that keep nitrogen where it belongs. They discussed attributes of their new Enlist Weed Control System. What they couldn't do was turn off the rain.

Clouds collected and alternately dripped and poured water over rows of crops that were clearly already tired of dog paddling. Andrew Ferrel, a Mycogen Seed agronomist, cautioned farmers to look for corn leaf diseases. Reports of gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight have been exploding right along with the weather. Outbreaks of GLS in particular have ratcheted up in recent days.

Several farmers were corralled to talk to the media about what they are experiencing. The frustration was evident. Most are coming off one of the best yielding crops they remember. However, many also went into this season knowing they were planting below breakeven costs.

Corn in many areas is starting to be starved for a last dose of nitrogen. Leaf diseases equal need for fungicides. Spray schedules for many post herbicide applications have been blown out of the water. Every farmer in attendance was praising pre-emergence products, but the new question was what to do to avoid weed seed set in drowned out spots or in fields that are obviously off-label.

So I asked the elephant-in-the-room question: At what point do you give up on a crop? The wincing was palpable.

Doug Morrow, a Swayzee, Ind., grower recalled the market response to the 2012 drought and the economic incentive to chase it. "This year we've seen a 30-cent rise and what is different is we were a dollar below the cost of production to begin with," said Morrow. "So we have a different set of dynamics."

With wet conditions sinking deeper into a season than he's ever experienced, Morrow predicted 2015 would be a year he'd "tell the grandchildren about." He dropped some supplemental nitrogen last week knowing more rain was in the forecast. He considers July 15 as the deadline for decision making for additional inputs. "After that, you're done," he said.

Jeff VanderWerff, a Sparta, Minn., grower said his perspective is influenced by the fact that he has one foot in the grain industry and another in the fruit industry. "In the late 1990's, I watched several large 700 to 800 acre fruit farms ride it to the bottom. They rode it to oblivion because they refused to give up on a crop and refused to admit they were in a losing position financially," he said.

"If I can't economically make money on this thing, I will pull the ripcord if I have to and walk away from it," he added. "I'm not sacrificing my family's legacy and future because I'm too stubborn to give up on something."

A month from this week I'll be packing my bags to participate in the Pro Farmer Crop Tour. It's hard to believe what I saw in Indiana last week will recover in time, but perhaps my brain is muddied by the conditions last week. Out my office window, the crop is soggy, but mostly beautiful.

Let me know what you're seeing.

Pamela Smith can be reached at



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Pamela Smith
7/14/2015 | 5:54 PM CDT
Thanks for writing Raymond. I must say our crops look fantastic smack in the center of Illinois. I'm heading out in the morning across Missouri and parts of Iowa and Nebraska. I'll cross through my home area in western Illinois where I know for a fact they got smacked around again last night.
Raymond Simpkins
7/14/2015 | 9:05 AM CDT
Pam, You may have read my blog response to Bryce and Joel. I traveled from Michigan to Texas and didn't see many acres I would give much for. I am like you I don't think the corn will recover, not sure you will have any ears to count in a month. I have never seen so much water covering acre after acre in Ill. Ind. and Oh. Came back home though Tenn. and Ky. It was better but not great.We have good looking corn here but beans are in bad shape, stunted and yellow.