SALEM, Ohio – If grain farming ever was a game of hit and miss, this year was the championship. The growing and harvest seasons were best described as “spotty” by producers and elevator operators throughout the region.
“Yields were all over the board this year,” said Lee Lipp, grain merchandiser for Agland Co-op in Canfield, Ohio, whose thoughts were echoed by producers and traders from northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio.
“A lot of growers in our area anticipated less than the norm, but then ended up being pleasantly surprised,” said Marlin Clark, grain trader in Ashtabula County for The Scoular Company.
Soybean setback. Locally, soybean yields were “much less than poor,” Clark said, and “we saw a whole lot of 25- to 30-bushel beans. But it’s still devastating in times of low prices.”
Agland officials saw soybean yields in the 30-35 bushel per acre range, a huge reduction in output from last year’s crop.
“Prices are generally still the same as last year, so yields like this hurt the bottom line real quick,” Lipp said.
Ohio’s average soybean yield is estimated at 42 bushels per acre, based on Nov. 1 conditions. If realized, this yield will result in a total production of 197 million bushels, up 6 percent from last year, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service.
Yields were pinched and about 30 percent off base in western Pennsylvania, according to Mike Wilcox, a grain farmer and operator of Wilclan Farm Service in Carlton, Pa. “We ended up being pretty close to getting the crop insurance kicked in” after beans averaged less than 30 bushel per acre, he said.
High and low. Corn yields throughout the region varied as much as the seasonal rainfall.
Clark noted that this year’s crop was some of the highest quality corn he’d seen in years, and that yields were “better than expected but still not good, and helped make up for the beans.”
“When you take out the poor fields on some farms, the crop was pretty good,” he said. “A lot of guys thought their corn didn’t look too good, but once they got into the fields, it didn’t end up being that bad.”
The opposite was also true, according to Jenifer Weaver, grain merchandiser for Deerfield Farms in Deerfield, Ohio. “Some guys thought things looked really good, and were disappointed with what they actually had,” she said.
Producers in the extreme northeastern Ohio region averaged roughly 125- to 150-bushel yield per acre, according to Clark. Patrons of Deerfield Farms averaged 110 bushel per acre within a 20-mile radius of the elevator, but have yet to finish harvest, according to Weaver.
Lipp noted outputs in Mahoning and Columbiana counties from 120 to 185 bushels an acre. Averages ranged from between 50-60 bushels to between 100-120 bushels, depending on the field location.
Not worth it. “I’ve heard that some fields weren’t even worth combining, and one field near Minerva ended up being mowed off,” Lipp said, speculating that low moisture levels in the area contributed to late germination in that field.
Ohio’s average corn yield is estimated at 144 bushels per acre, based on Nov. 1 conditions. If realized, this yield will result in a total production of 453.6 million bushels, down 6 percent from last year, according to the USDA.
Both crops showed normal to low moisture levels and normal to high test weights.
“In a year of low prices, this helps the farmer since he doesn’t have to pay out everything he’s making for drying charges,” Clark said.
When it came down to the wire, weather was the biggest player in the crop setback.
“Ten miles to either direction of here, they got timely rains and now have respectable yields. In Albion, things look terrible, but in Waterford things look good,” said Wilcox. The 20-mile band where his farm and elevator are located were extremely dry this summer, receiving less than 1 inch of rain from the middle of July to late August.
“Just one or two rains would have made a big difference for a lot of people,” he said.
Harvest hold-up. Rains came too late to help with growing but held up soybean harvest, according to Clark.
“Most producers I’ve spoken with didn’t get excited about getting into the corn, and needed to get their beans done,” he said, noting recent weather has been wonderful for harvest.
Clark noted a decrease in the amount of fall tillage under way in the Ashtabula County area, but Wilcox, John Wallbrown, co-owner of Deerfield Farms, and farmers in those areas are in the fields tilling and spreading fertilizer.
“It was another typical year – you never know what to expect,” said Wallbrown, who also mentioned the low market prices are discouraging for farmers everywhere.
“We’re seeing that producers who have bins are sitting on the grain for awhile,” said Weaver, and other elevators are experiencing the same trend.
“Producers are hoping for some price recovery, but I don’t know if there will be enough to make a difference,” said Wilcox.
“I don’t see any good reason for the prices to go up,” said Clark, who has observed farmers willing to take the LDP and quickly filling elevators to capacity.
“It’s hard to tell what we should expect,” he said.
(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)