“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been,
I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there,
and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Larry Sailer on his corn and soybean farm, just north of Iowa Falls, Iowa. – Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Ahl with NPR

Most people don’t fully understand what it takes to put in a crop every year. Farmers like me, who invest several hundred thousand dollars each year, must have faith that the seed will grow into a crop.

There are more than 1,000 variables that affect a growing crop each season. I have been reminded of these variables – most of which are beyond my control – time and again! My crops suffered extreme hail damage during three of the first five years of the 1980s. That many years of crop loss certainly made a bad situation worse.

Weather can be a blessing or a curse, according to Dr. Fred Below, Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of Illinois. His research reveals the seven most important factors to achieve the highest possible corn yields. Weather ranks #1, accounting for 70 bushels or more per acre or 27% of total yield! (Now you might have a better understanding of why farmers talk almost obsessively about the weather.)

Rain can certainly make or break a crop. All seeds need water and warmth to germinate. Once the seedlings emerge from the soil, timely rains are needed for plant and crop development. Timely rains have been hard to come by this spring in North Central Iowa. A lack of rainfall caused crop conditions to decline for three straight weeks. Thankfully, we finally received some rain at the end of last week. These rains helped stabilize crop conditions, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Although topsoil moisture levels improved, 54% still remains short to very short. Subsoil moisture declined slightly over the past week with 61% short to very short. Bottom line: parts of Iowa are still suffering drought.

In addition to weather, another hot topic of conversation for farmers is the 2012 Farm Bill. Last Wednesday I was featured in an interview with NPR where I voiced my opinion that corn and soybean farmers still need federal crop insurance in case of natural disasters and revenue assurances to protect them from a market collapse. Farmers Split Over Subsidies As Senate Farm Bill Debate Begins. I shared a link to this NPR report on my Facebook page and ended up taking it down because it sparked such a heated online argument. Apparently, farmers aren’t the only ones interested in this debate! Guess this really isn’t too surprising given that 80% of the 2012 Farm Bill is non-farm related.