If I'd met Mother Nature in 2012, I would have to assume at this point in 2013 that she is bipolar. Record high temperatures last March pushed us to planting time nearly a month ahead of an average start date. At the beginning of June 2012, we did not yet know that the rain wouldn't fall for another six weeks, and temperatures would hold steady in the triple digit zone.
I asked my sister to snap a picture of me standing in the corn we planted on April 2. I was surprised at how well the crops looked without more than a few tenths of precipitation since seed met soil, and wanted to show off our earliest planted corn blowing away that old "knee high by Fourth of July" saying.
The Dekalb seed company recently shared a poster on Facebook depicting the top corn yields of 1940 and it got the gears turning in my head. For many decades, corn growers at the local, state and national level have competed in yield contests to see who can grow the most corn per acre. Bragging rights are at stake (and sometimes cash and prizes), and the 1940 yield contest winner for my home state of Indiana harvested 94.81 bushels per acre.
What about that clicks in my ag-nerd brain? The fact that in 2012, hopefully the worst drought of my farming career, saw our farm garner an average corn yield of 94.7 bushels per acre. For all intents and purposes, that's equal to the best of the best in my great grandfather’s day.
The poster shows a 102.38 bushel average for contestants over 12 states. The U.S. averaged about 123 bushels per acre following the horrendous drought of 2012. By those numbers, today’s worst is better than yesteryear’s top dogs.
The past year saw a mild winter give way to a balmier-than-normal spring, followed by a sweltering summer and high temperatures that lingered into the fall, all punctuated by extreme drought and intense storms.
Now 2012 is officially in the books as the hottest year on record for the continental United States and the second-worst for "extreme" weather such as hurricanes, droughts or floods, the U.S. government announced Tuesday.