By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Part of what happens with this year's crops will be decided in March, April and May.
"We've got to get it planted. That's always a major challenge," said Kelly Nelson, research agronomist and associate professor at the University of Missouri Greenley Memorial Research Center near Novelty.
"We usually run into wet conditions in the springtime."
Even last year, one of the driest on record, Nelson said he had to replant about 15 percent of the center's crops.
"It was too wet early," he said.
But banking on continued dry weather heading into this growing season, area farmers are looking at irrigation systems and drought-tolerant hybrids.
"There's a large demand for that hybrid technology. Whether they'll perform well under extreme conditions, that's yet to be seen," Nelson said.
Dry weather provided a large window to finish fall work, leaving "everyone kind of gunning, ready to go for spring," Nelson said. "Overall, we've got to be looking forward rather than behind."
Still it's hard not to look back at 2012 and its weather conditions that challenged both crop and livestock producers.
"Around July 1, I thought we had one of the best crops we'd ever seen. I thought we had 250 bushel corn. It was really looking good," said Jason Jacquot, a Basco, Ill., grain and livestock farmer. "Things started going the other way. Yields kept on dropping, dropping and dropping."
Jacquot ended up with 117 bushel corn, a lot better than some people, and rain from Hurricane Isaac pushed soybean yields to 49 bushels per acre.
Short crops drove up prices for feed as hot, dry weather drained ponds and scorched pastures.
"It was bad for our hogs. They were eating high-priced corn. We could have sold it instead of fed it," he said. "With cows, guys had to chop corn. It was definitely a trying year."
Fields that didn't produce well run the risk of carrying over herbicide this spring.
"Make sure you've reviewed what was sprayed, what was applied," Nelson said. "Make sure you're aware of what risks there are for those specific products."
That could be especially important as farmers finalize how much to plant -- and in what field.
"Acres are going to change depending on crop prices," Nelson said. "A lot of guys haven't even finalized how many acres of corn or soybeans they're going to be dealing with. It depends on the spring weather."
2012 CROP PRODUCTION
• 1.286 billion bushels, well below 2011 production of 1.947 billion bushels
• Average yield 105 bushels per acre, 52 bushels below 2011 and the lowest yield since 1988.
• Acres planted up 200,000 from 2011 at 12.8 million.
• 383,560,000 bushels, down about 10 percent from 2011.
• Average yield of 43 bushels per acre, 4.5 bushels below 2011 and the lowest yield since 2003.
• Acres planted in 2012 were up 100,000 from 2011 to 9.05 million.
• 248 million bushels, the lowest since 1999.
• Drought-reduced yield was 75 bushels per acre, the lowest since 51 bushels per acre in 1983.
• 3.6 million acres were planted in 2012, the highest corn acreage in the state since 1960.
• 155.2 million bushels, the lowest total since 2003.
• Average yield of 29.5 bushels per acre, also the lowest since 2003.
• 5.4 million acres planted.
• 10.8 billion bushels, down 13 percent from 2011.
• Average yield of 123.4 bushels per acre, 23.8 bushels below 2011.
• Production totaled 3.01 billion bushels, down 3 percent from 2011.
• Average yield was 39.6 bushels, 2.3 bushels below 2011.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service