By HAYLEIGH COLOMBO
(Lafayette) Journal and Courier
LAFAYETTE — There’s no more mystery about how last summer’s drought affected crop production in Indiana and other states.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday released its January crop production summary, the first official comprehensive report about crop production and yields of the nation’s most important crops during 2012. Many were ravaged this summer and fall by high heat and little rain.
Here’s how Indiana’s most prominent crops fared:
• The USDA estimates corn production is about 10.8 billion bushels nationwide, 1 percent higher than the department predicted in November. Corn production was 13 percent lower than it was the previous year. In Indiana, farmers yielded an average of 99 bushels per acre, compared with 146 in 2011.
• Soybean production in 2012 reached 3.01 billion bushels nationwide, down just 3 percent from the previous year, and one of the top 10 largest harvests on record, according to the USDA. Farmers in Indiana yielded an average of 43.5 bushels per acre, compared with 45.5 in 2011.
Purdue University agronomy professor Bob Nielsen said the final figures weren’t surprising.
“For us, in Indiana, it simply reinforces the fact that this was a very severe year,” Nielsen said. “Certainly one of the most severe single-year droughts that we’ve ever had in the Corn Belt.”
Melanie Gilbert, who is the co-owner of AGRI Farms in Lafayette, said her yields for corn and soybeans were on point with the USDA’s estimates for Indiana.
“I would say they’re probably about what we expected, based on the weather conditions,” Gilbert said. “If you’re a die-hard farmer who’s in it for life, you just look forward to the next year.”
Gilbert and Lafayette grain farmer Philip Burket said taking advantage of new technology helped their yields from going lower.
Gilbert utilized seed hybrids that were more able to withstand high heat, and Burket’s farming team used a new high-quality combine that was able to better collect small ears of corn.
“Modern technology does pay off,” Burket said. “I grew up on a farm in Tipton County. It’s so much better than it used to be. Really a big difference.”