(Posted Fri. Oct 28th, 2011)

Oct. 28: Field Notes opened the farm gate this spring and provided followers with an inside look at the activities of several farmers from a variety of geographical areas. With corn harvest nearly complete on his farm, we caught up with Maryland grower and National Corn Growers Association Corn Board Member Chip Bowling to review this year’s growing season and discuss what he plans to do this winter.


With only 30 acres of corn left to harvest, Bowling first reflected on the events that impacted farmers in the Mid-Atlantic this year.


“It was a crazy year for Maryland farmers,” he assessed. “We had a hurricane in late August, followed only 10 days later by a tropical storm that dumped 32 inches of rain on us in a 10-day period. On top of that, it has been an interesting, interesting harvest.”


He noted that the weather earlier in the season also impacted the crop which he is now harvesting.


“Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic, for the most part, had another hot, dry summer,” Bowling explained. “Our growing season was great up until about June 1. Then, the heat set in and the dryness came. Maryland is probably going to have average to below average corn yields this year. For us, this is the third consecutive year of below expected yields.”


He went on to explain that their normal yield goal is between 160 and 180 bushels of corn per acre. Like most of the state of Maryland, he expects that this year he will average about 120 bushels of corn per acre. Typically, the state average lies between 140 and 150.


When asked about the effect that decreased yields due to weather have on farmers, who place the same monetary and physical investment for a smaller crop, he remained stoic, chalking the situation up to an occupational hazard.


“Well, I guess that is just what farmers do,” he said. “We rely on mother nature to give us what we need. Some years, it works. Some years, it doesn’t. We are definitely due for a year of good weather here in Maryland, but when one crop doesn’t perform how you want, another seems to do well in its place.”


On his farm, Bowling had a strong wheat harvest in mid-July and that his sorghum crop also flourished this year.


Following harvest, he will review the outcome of his planting decisions over the past few years and decide how to proceed for the 2012 crop. Already, he has decided to further adopt no-till production practices for his corn acres because non-tilled acres have performed better on his farm in the high-heat, low-water summers that have plagued the area recently. Additionally, he plans to plant hybrids that develop in a shorter season rather than the 110- to 120-day corn varieties once common in the region.


For the full interview, click here.