Have you ever done everything right, only to still have it turn out poorly? Like that fancy dinner you tried to cook that one evening: you followed the recipe to the T, —not one grain of salt too much or too little—and still it came out of the oven burned black. How could you have known that your oven’s thermometer was off?
Test weight is off this year. You probably already know this. Our stands and total kernel count are decent, but test weight is low by about 8-10%. And there’s nothing that you can do or could have done about it because the limiting factor was out of your control.
Do I even need to say that the limiting factor was weather? Because it was. There’s a reason that Fred Below puts such weight on weather. For the most part, it simply wasn’t sunny enough or warm enough during a key stretch of our growing season. In fact, since July 1, we’re down 230 Growing Degree Units (GDUs) compared to this time last year. August and September were particularly lacking the sunlight and heat that we so badly need during grain fill. There was an entire week at the end of September where we struggled under clouds to reach even 50 degrees.
If you managed to raise the same number of bushels this year than last, then you did everything very right because the weather was working against that scenario, let alone the scenario where you raise more than you did last season.
If you’re coming in a little less and/or your test weight is low, there may have been a few factors within your control that you didn’t play absolutely perfectly. Our less-then-ideal weather then exacerbated the consequences of decisions related to:
- Hybrid selection: Test weight varies hybrid by hybrid according to a hybrid’s leaf orientation and size and other such factors that influence photosynthesis. Of all of your decisions though, your choice of hybrid likely had the smallest effect on your test weight.
- Controlling insects: Insect damage can reduce total leaf area and integrity, leading to smaller plants whose photosynthetic engines don’t churn as surely as those of beefier plants. Cool weather early in the year started us down the path of smaller plants and any insect damage incurred throughout the season kept us moving in that same direction.
- Disease and root worm issues: Stalk and root quality issues caused by diseases and pests like rootworm hinder a plants ability to pull in nutrients and become all that it can be. Like the effects of insect damage were magnified by the cool weather, the effects of disease and rootworm were magnified because of the poor start roots got in the cool soil early in the season.
Whatever your decisions is these areas though, mostly, it came down to the lousy wild card of weather. And wild cards fall where they will. Now, this can certainly be a little frustrating, but it is also reason to do everything on our end as right or good as possible. Because when the wild cards work against us, our good work at least mitigates the tribulations they can cause. And when the wild cards fall our way, we’re set then to conquer. Our big wild card didn’t fall in our favor this season which is crummy, but we can still look to next season with hope and, with some good lessons learned, confidence that we’re doing all that we can on our end to push our yield numbers ever higher.