From long periods of drought, to hailstorms, high temperatures and other extreme weather events, 2023 was a roller coaster for many farmers.
Here’s a glimpse of how harvest went across several of AgriGold’s territories:
Kansas: timing for planting matters
It was a dry start to the season in the Heartland: Kansas is still in the midst of a long-term drought, and those conditions impacted planting.
“We saw some very non-uniform stands because seeds were not planted deep enough or were placed in loose, dry soil,” says Kris Young, an AgriGold agronomist in Kansas. “Those farmers that delayed planting until more favorable conditions were rewarded with more uniform stands and higher yield potential.”
That lesson is a great reminder for how to approach the upcoming planting season:
“Deciding when to plant should be based on field conditions, rather than on a calendar date,” Young says.
Even after planting, dry conditions continued for a good portion of the growing season in Kansas. With limited precipitation in the region, combined with a hot, dry grain fill period, some fields struggled with production.
However, growers who planted multiple genetics across their farm were more likely to reduce their risk of low yields. Hybrids with higher drought tolerance can help take some of the pressure off other hybrids that might not fare as well.
“Farmers planting more than one genetic in a field may have better field averages if one hybrid is better able to compensate for the drier than normal conditions,” Young says.
West Central Illinois: root problems
This year’s growing season was characterized by one big problem: hatchet roots. At first, agronomists thought the issue was contained to one grower.
“Unfortunately, it was a bigger issue than that,” said AgriGold agronomist Brett Leahr, who’s based in the region. “I believe what we were actually seeing was an environmental issue, and it was in a lot of fields in central Illinois.”
Leahr guesses that this issue has something to do with the hot, dry weather the region experienced right after planting. In those conditions, the soil acted like a “pottery kiln” that the nodal roots couldn’t penetrate the side wall.
But eventually, Illinois finally experienced enough precipitation to mitigate the issue.
“Once we got more rain, the third, fourth, and fifth set of nodal roots were then able to go down in the 45-degree angle like they should,” Leahr said.
Still, other problems surfaced during harvest. In August, anthracnose stalk rot showed up throughout the central part of the state. Thankfully, a little relief in the fall saved many growers’ yields in the region.
“We were very fortunate with the weather we had this fall,” Leahr said. “It allowed us to have a somewhat early and fast harvest. If we did not have that great weather we had this fall, there was a great chance we could have had a lot of corn fields that were tangled up and laid over due to anthracnose.”
Despite low expectations because of the up and down weather, the region still experienced some yield success.
“As a whole, everyone is impressed with how far genetics have come since our last ‘major’ drought in 2012,” Leahr said. “Although this year seemed like a very good comparison to 2012 with the lack of moisture most growers were experiencing, 2023 was a totally different year [for yields].”
Deep South (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas): stormy season
Down south, yields were greatly impacted this year by extreme weather events — including extremely high heat for long periods throughout the summer.
In AgriGold agronomist Chris Ouzts’ territory, for example, soybeans were off by about 10% in some spots because of blanked pods. He says this was likely caused by the intense heat the region experienced during pollination.
Not to mention, there were several historical weather events. In June, Mississippi experienced some of the largest hailstones in state history, followed by the strongest tornado in at least 66 years. Arkansas experienced multiple tornadoes. Louisiana declared a state of emergency in June because of severe weather.
Needless to say, it was not smooth sailing in the south this year. Still, this chaos gave farmers the chance to evaluate how different hybrids performed despite adverse conditions.
“We got to see hybrid and soybean performance in extreme weather conditions,” Ouzts says. “There were high winds, baseball-sized and smaller hail, then later high heat and humidity.”
Southern Minnesota and Eastern South Dakota: grateful for snowfall
In this region, AgriGold agronomist Brian Ternus says yields were higher than he and many others expected. With season-long dry conditions, it seemed uncertain that yields would be able to sustain the drought.
However, this region had some timely snowfall over the winter to thank.
“Many years, as the snowfall melts, it runs off,” Ternus says. “This past winter, the snow came early enough to prevent significant frost development in the soil, so much of the snow melt soaked into the soil, recharging our subsoil moisture. This subsoil moisture sustained many areas during the drought and allowed farmers to reach higher yields than they expected.”
If you want to make sure you’re preparing appropriately for the next growing season, reach out to your local AgriGold agronomist for support in choosing the best hybrids for your fields.