With reports of farmers throughout Indiana mowing down their crops because of irreparable damage from drought conditions, Purdue Agricultural Economist Chris Hurt says there is a reason for removing the damaged corn entirely. He says that while there is no real positive reason to do so, there are a number of possible reasons to want to have the entire crop removed.
First, he says if there is going to be no usable corn crop – that is, ears and seeds – then there is value to the stock itself for use as cattle feed. Generally, this would be chopped down and placed in silos or bailed.
Second, if a farmer has crop insurance and their crop insurance adjustor has already examined the field and deemed it a total loss, then they will receive a crop insurance payment. If that’s the case, the farmer might decide to clear the field and attempt to plant another crop before the end of the season.
“There is some possibility of getting another crop. Of course, it’s very late now as we’re getting towards the middle of July to get another crop of some kind, but that’s a possibility, and we’ve seen some of that,” said Hurt.
Another reason Hurt explained is that if the crop is destroyed, the farmer can decide to remove it rather than agonize over the sight of dead or dying plants. The drought has had a devastating effect on crops in Indiana, and even with irrigation systems in use, farmers are hard-pressed to keep their plants alive.
“Even the irrigation cannot keep up with the amount of loss of moisture that occurs through evaporation and through the plant as it just loses water. So this has been even for those who irrigate, they can’t get enough water on for the usage of the plant and the evaporation,” said Hurt.
Irrigation systems currently only cover about three percent of acreage in Indiana, and even then that irrigation systems are designed to complement natural rainfall. Because they aren’t set up to water a field single-handed, farmers must sometimes make the decision to water only half the field and leave the rest to wither.
Hurt says that this drought will certainly illuminate the important of crop insurance. Seventy-five percent of corn in Indiana is insured and about 65 percent of the soybean acreage. While insurance isn’t meant to replace all of the loss, it is designed to help farmers avoid catastrophic losses. For many farmers, a very bad year that results in the loss of an entire field could cost them all of their financial wealth in one fell swoop. The safety net provided by crop insurance is designed to prevent that kind of catastrophic impact.
“So that, depending on their coverage, we expect that to be very helpful to many farm families this year, to help them get through financially and try again next year,” said Hurt.
Hurt says a drought of this magnitude only occurs about four times a century.