YIELD VARIABILITY: Highest Many Farmers Have Seen

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It’s another day on the farm for Jeff Westrum.

The Boone farmer gets in the field at 7 AM and works until the sun goes down.

The hours rarely change during harvest season, but what is changing from row to row and in some cases, every 100 feet is the yield per acre in his field.

“As expected, it was pretty good in some acres and down to 90 bushels per acres in a few areas there,” said Westrum.

It’s the most variability he’s ever seen in his farming career.

His yield monitor shows 260 bushels per acre in low lying areas with good soil composition and moisture from previous seasons.

However, much lower yields in the hills where rain and fertilizer have run off.

“You look at it and you wonder why it dropped.  It doesn’t usually take long. It can be sandy, there might be poor soils.”

All in all, it’s been a better year than expected.

Between his fields, Westrum estimates he’ll average about 140 bushels per acre. That’s higher than he expected this summer.

It doesn’t mean the extreme variability hasn’t made life difficult.

“You just don’t know how to plan for variability. You don’t know what to do when you put on fertilizer.”

Westrum will finish this field by the end of the week. He’ll then move on to soil testing and tillage to prepare his fields for 2013.

Farmers aren’t in the clear yet.

The drought has forced crops to extend deep into their moisture reserves.

Without some fall rain or a good snow melt in the spring, the outlook for 2013 could be concerning for farmers again.