By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — What a difference a year can make.
Last year at this time — approximately halfway through the 2012 growing season — farmers throughout central Indiana were facing an agricultural disaster. Weeks without rain and record high temperatures wreaked havoc on crops.
By mid-July of last year, farmers in nearly half of Indiana counties were declared eligible for federal disaster relief because of the toll the drought took on crops and livestock. More were added by summer's end.
This year, the story is completely different. Temperatures are moderate, and there's been plenty of rain — perhaps even a little too much, some farmers say.
"In general, crops are in much better condition than last year," said Jim Camberato, a specialist with the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.
It's too early to predict crop yields since corn and soybeans are just now beginning to flower, but he is optimistic for a far better harvest in in 2013.
"There's time for bad things to happen (like Wednesday's thunderstorms), but so far things are looking really good."
A cold, wet spring caused some minor inconvenience for Mike Shuter of Shuter Sunset Farms in Frankton as he prepared for planting, but now, conditions are "about totally opposite of what it was like last year."
Some early spring crops were lost at Harvestland Farm of Aspire Indiana, said David Robb, farm manager. But mid-summer crops of summer squash, eggplant, peppers and potatoes "are looking really good, and it looks like a really good sweet corn year from what I can see," he added.
Unlike corn and soybeans, tomato plants thrive in hot, dry weather, so last year wasn't a disaster for Red Gold when the company realized a 90 percent yield, said Steve Smith, vice president for agriculture.
Smith was in California on Thursday checking on the status of the tomato crop there, but said "when I left on Monday, I thought the crop looked very good." Although an abundance of rain had caused some minor damage, "As a whole, I think our tomato crop is doing well."
He predicted this year's yield will be even better than last year's 90 percent, so "I'm pretty much a happy camper right now," Smith said.
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