There may be no such thing as the "normal" growing conditions of old that many corn farmers have been longing for after enduring extreme weather in recent years, says Bob Nielsen, a Purdue Extension agronomist. Instead, he suggests corn growers look at a variety of management techniques to give crops the best chance at success – regardless of the weather.

"Many of us have a nostalgic memory of growing seasons where the crops emerged quickly, grew vigorously and uniformly, pollinated successfully, filled out grain completely and stood strong until harvested in the warm, sunny days of early fall," Nielsen says.

"I would suggest that maybe we have all been delusional with our nostalgia and that perhaps a more accurate definition of a 'normal' growing season is one that involves an unpredictable number of unpredictable extreme weather events, each occurring unpredictably with unpredictable severity."

The first way farmers can deal with uncertainty is to identify what influences yield – both positive and negative – and manage it accordingly.

Often, weather stress is compounded by other yield-influencing factors, so identifying and managing them can help growers "stress-proof" their cropping systems, Nielsen says.

"The process of identifying the yield-influencing factors that are important to specific fields is not easy," he says. "They may occur every year in a given field, or they may not. They often interact with other factors to influence yield. They often interact with soil type and texture and drainage conditions. And yield-influencing factors almost always interact with weather conditions."

Because there are so many possible yield-influencing-factor combinations, Nielsen says corn growers should strive to keep notes on what happens to a crop during an entire growing season. They also can draw upon their own experiences from a particular field.

He also suggests taking advantage of available resources, such as crop input retailers, crop consultants and Extension professionals.

"The bottom line is get out into your fields during the growing season, identify problem areas early while evidence is still there to aid diagnostics and figure out what's going on with your crops," Nielsen says.