Farmer Focus: Maize crop suffers lack of rain

As usual, I am complaining about the weather. We were too wet last month and now we are too dry, although I did get my soya beans planted before the crop insurance deadline.

Along with being too dry, we have the worst infestation of grasshoppers since 1980. For the first time since I’ve farmed, I have had to spray crops for this pest and I have treated the same fields twice now.

This year I did not have any wheat, but those neighbours who did had a fairly challenging harvest, with a lot of rain. Yields were, however, better than expected, at 35-60 bushels/acre in my area.

With planting and wheat harvest out of the way, the activity occupying most farmers is making hay. The wet weather we had earlier put everyone behind in their work, but the hot, dry days we are having now allow a rapid catch-up.

The corn started out looking outstanding, but each day without rain is trimming a little off our expected yield, and I predict another week or 10 days without rain will see us go from outstanding potential to average or below.

The USDA is quite optimistic about grain yields and prices have been tumbling.

I could have contracted soya beans for November locally at $11.99/bushel (£7) prior to the report – but I wanted $12. Now I may get $10 (£6) if I am lucky. My wife was kind enough to point out to me that the extra penny would not have amounted to much money.

We went to see my brother in Lincoln, Nebraska, over the 4 July holiday weekend. The 200 miles we travelled took us through corn and bean country and all the crops looked great, but nothing was made.

It is really hard for me to see how the grain trade can talk about high-yielding crops several months before harvest, before much of the corn crop tassled and when the beans aren’t even blooming.

If I didn’t know better, I might think they simply were trying to drive down the price… Of course, we all know that isn’t the case.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land, of which 770ha is family owned plus the rest is rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing by 200 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay.

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