A stretch of dry fall weather that one farm economist calls "perfect" is helping Indiana farmers harvest their crops early following a summer of heavy rains that cut yields across many parts of the state.
Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt said Indiana farmers had harvested about two-thirds of the state's soybean crop and about half of its corn crop by last week.
He estimated the summer's torrential rains inflicted about $200 million in crop losses in Indiana, but that's far less than initial loss estimates of a half-billion dollars.
Hurt said the fall harvest that followed those deluges has been nearly ideal, with "perfect weather" for farmers eager to put the rainy growing season behind them.
Decatur County farmer Harold Wilson told the Greensburg Daily News his southeastern Indiana farm has seen "wonderful weather" during the fall harvest.
Wilson said the soybeans he planted early produced excellent yields, with some acres exceeding 70 bushels. But acres affected by ponding caused by heavy rains produced 40 bushels, and some produced nothing at all.
Decatur County farmer David Miers, a former Indiana deputy commissioner of agriculture, said the dry fall appears likely to save farmers money because they won't be incurring expenses to dry their crops.
Hurt said the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates shows statewide soybean yields will be 51 bushels per acre, higher than the 50 bushels per acre expected in normal weather conditions. But he said the corn crop varies by region, with statewide estimates at 156 bushels per acre, about 10 bushels below a normal yield.
Hurt said grain prices are now low and that will leave most farmers with tight margins and little profit.
Bruce Beeker, who farms about 2,000 acres in southwestern Hancock County just east of Indianapolis, said some of his corn fields were hit so hard by flooding they're either devoid of plants or dotted with stunted corn plants.
But he said he's now more optimistic about the fall harvest after waves of summer storms left standing water in his fields for days.
"It's turning out a bit better than what we all expected," Beeker told the Greenfield Daily Reporter. "We didn't know if we were even gonna have anything to harvest at one point."