WOOSTER, Ohio — Every farmer will have his own opinion of this year’s mild growing season, but there seems to be consensus it was a much better year than last year’s record drought.
A look at the U.S. Drought monitor, which measures severity of dryness and drought — shows that Ohio is nearly 100 percent free of drought conditions, compared to a year ago when 85 percent of the state ranged from “abnormally dry” to “extreme drought.”
In Pennsylvania and surrounding states, it’s a similar story. Ninety percent of Pa. is free from drought, compared to a year ago, when 35 percent of the state was abnormally dry.
This year was decidedly cool, though, and farmers and the national crop progress statistics show we are anywhere from 10-20 days behind with major crops.
Still, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern.
Loren Weaver, of West Salem, Ohio, operates a custom silage harvesting business with his brothers. They harvest in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, and estimate they’re only about a week behind.
“We’re not terribly far behind,” he said. “It seems like the corn is ripening up almost on time.”
Weaver said there’s a lot of variability across the three-state region and some farms are always wetter than others. In some cases, he said the early spring rains kept farmers from applying herbicides, and that has caused an increase in weed populations.
In the wettest locations, Weaver said some corn was also stunned by the moisture early on, and grew poorly during the summer as a result. Farmers in wet areas also struggled to apply additional nitrogen, he said, which has also reduced some yields.
In many cases, he said farmers are finding that planting Roundup Ready crops requires them to also apply pre-emergence herbicide, in case they can’t get back into the field later to apply herbicide.
The cooler weather has been beneficial for livestock farmers, who are seeing greater feed efficiency and overall production data.
Maurice Eastridge, dairy production and nutrition professor with Ohio State University, said July milk production is up 3 percent this year over July of 2012, in large part because of cooler temperatures. Since the start of the year, milk production is up 1.9 percent.
“Milk production in Ohio is up considerably for the same time period,” he said.
He said grass production has been good and feed supplies seem to be holding up. This is a relief for many Ohio farmers, who last year suffered the worst drought in 50 years, and saw their feed supplies diminish.
Further west, beyond the corn belt — farmers are still battling drought conditions that will likely have an impact on crop and livestock prices.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows 86 percent or more of the west has at least some drought conditions.
Joe Wenger, of Eyster Harvesting, combines grain from Texas to North Dakota. As of early September, his crew was in Montana, where he said conditions are dry and dry across the wheat belt.
He said most farmers in that area have had good planting conditions for next year’s crop, but in the western parts of those states, farmers have seen significant yield reductions due to drought. For some, they’re only getting 20 bushels per acre of wheat.
Eyster is from Wooster, Ohio, but spends his summers doing custom harvesting in western states.