If Mother Nature cooperates, Ohio farmers could see record yields

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COLUMBUS — Ample rain and cooler-than-normal temperatures this summer have turned an average growing season into a potential record-breaker for Ohio crop producers.

According to the August forecast by the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, winter wheat yield is estimated at 71 bushels per acre, just one bushel shy of the record of 72 bushels per acre, set in 2000.

In 2005, state average yield was also 71 bushels per acre.

No holding yields back. “This was the kind of year where if a wheat variety is outstanding, cooperating weather and low insect and disease pressures can show how good a variety really is,” said Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist.

“There really wasn’t much this year to hold the yields back.”

Beuerlein said that a year with good growing weather just adds to the good production practices that growers follow to achieve high yields.

“When it comes to wheat, almost all varieties out there have the potential to yield well over 100 bushels an acre. But we don’t have the environment here that allows us to achieve that,” said Beuerlein.

“But producers do a really good job of getting the crop planted on time and taking care of weeds, diseases, insects, and fertility and seeding rates. And when we have good weather, we end up with fantastic yields.”

OSU trials

Beuerlein said those fantastic yields showed up in the Ohio State University Extension wheat performance trials, where yields ranged from the 70s into the 100s.

The annual performance test focused on five planting locations (Wayne, Darke, Wood, Crawford and Pickaway counties) and produced data in such areas as yield, test weight, lodging, heading date, disease reaction, and grain quality factors.

“A good weather year like this aids in the grower’s decision-making on picking varieties,” said Beuerlein. “Those varieties that do really well in a good year tend to be the better varieties in a poor season, so you always want to pick varieties in the top 10 percent of the list.”

Corn record?

Like wheat, Ohio’s corn crop is also performing well due to a combination of the environmental conditions and low insect and disease pressures.

Corn yield is estimated at 165 bushels per acre. If the number holds firm, it will be a state record, climbing six bushels higher than the previous record set in 2006.

“The environment, timely rains and moderate temperatures, have been the major factors in driving these high yields, Beuerlein said.

And when nighttime temperatures are relatively low, as has been the case much of this summer, “it’s beneficial for the corn crop because it’s reducing respiration and promoting a longer grain fill period,” said Peter Thomison, an OSU Extension agronomist.

But, he cautioned, the flip side to that is the crop may mature more slowly and dry down more slowly.

Although environmental conditions are the major factor contributing to the crop’s potential record-breaking yield, Thomison also credits growers for wisely choosing hybrids and adopting production practices that favor good crop performance. “There has been a tremendous adoption of new genetics, and higher yields are being reflected in the planting of these new hybrids,” said Thomison.

Crop establishment

Thomison added that plant populations have increased over the past few years, from 14 percent of the corn acreage with final stands of 30,000 plants per acre or more in 2006 to 34 percent last year.

“More plants per acre mean more kernels per acre and higher yields when conditions are favorable. The increase in seeding rates responsible for these greater final stands also contributes to earlier development of the crop canopy. This allows corn fields to capture more sunlight and that can lead to higher yields,” said Thomison.

Some bean pressure

Despite some disease pressures, such as white mold, brown stem rot and sudden death syndrome, Ohio’s soybean crop is also performing well. According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, only 6 percent of the soybean crop is in poor condition.

Soybean yield is estimated at 47 bushels per acre, tying the record set in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

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