WOOSTER, Ohio — By the looks of it, we may be heading into our second spring season of the year and that will be a relief for farmers who planted early or are just getting started.
The National Weather Service Forecast shows daytime highs in the 70s and 80s through the weekend, and lows in the upper 50s to lower 60s. That will offer some relief to farmers who saw temperatures last week dip into the lower 30s, with snow and heavy accumulations in parts of Pennsylvania.
Rob Yost of Lawrence and Beaver counties, Pa., had 250 acres of corn planted by mid-April. He was not worried about losses because the ground where he planted earliest was “exceptionally well drained,” he said, and ground temperature was 60 or more degrees.
“It was just hard to resist planting — the weather was so nice,” he said.
Fred Pond, owner of Pond Seed Co. in northwest Ohio, said most of the farmers in that part of the state are finished planting corn and so far, it looks to be doing well.
Even though it got cold the past week, he doesn’t think it was cold long enough to do serious damage. And, most of the corn has not yet emerged, he said, so it’s fairly well protected.
Compared to last year — a record wet spring and delayed planting into the first of June — he said things are going much smoother.
“It’s been ideal to get things in,” he said. “We’re not damaging the ground at all and, boy, that’s sure nice.”
Where we stand
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, 57 percent of Ohio corn is planted, compared to just one percent this time last year. In Pa., 27 percent corn is planted, compared to one percent last year.
As for soybeans, NASS says 16 percent of Ohio beans are planted, and five percent of Pa. beans are planted. In Ohio that is 11 percent percent ahead of the five-year average.
April 15 was the average last-freeze date and crop insurance policies do not protect potential replanting costs if farmers plant before the earliest seeding date — April 6. April 20 is the unofficial planting start date recognized by a majority of Ohio farmers.
“There will be a huge volume of corn in the ground regardless of differing planting timeframes,” said Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association Executive Director Tadd Nicholson, in a media statement.
“Thousands of wheat acres didn’t get planted as intended because of the wet fall and many acres will be used for corn instead. Some wheat acres that did get planted were damaged during the mild wet winter, which caused many farmers to convert these acres to corn to utilize existing fertilizer inputs.”
Statewide in Ohio, 73 percent of wheat has headed, as of April 29.
According to OSU Extension, the first five to 10 days in May will be critical for making decisions on whether or not to apply fungicides for the prevention of head scab.
Presently, the risk is considered to be “low” by the Wheat Scab Prediction Center.
Further east into Pa., however, Penn State Agronomy Professor Greg Roth is keeping a watchful eye on how the early-planted crops are faring.
Farmers in the state got a good start in early April, he said, but winter weather made a return the week of April 23, and some fields were covered in snow.
“Historically that’s (freezing temperatures) predisposed to damage and reductions,” he said.
Roth said he’s seen a wide range of soil temperatures, from the 60s to a morning temperature as low as 39 degrees.
He saw some corn emerge mid-April, only to be “burned-off” to the ground, by winter-like temperatures.
“The stuff took three-and-a-half weeks to come up and then we got a hard freeze and burned it back to the ground,” he said.
Although he expects most of the burned corn will recover, he said there’s a definite “risk” some fields could need replanted.
He said it’s taking a lot of days and even weeks to get the seed to sprout, simply because there haven’t been enough warm temperature days for sprouting to happen.
On the plus-side, researchers and seed companies have long been touting their improved seeds and protective coatings — to preserve the seed for longer periods until sprouting. This year, the technology is being put to the test.
“I’m hoping that the good seed we have tolerates all of this,” Roth said.