Wet spring set stage for delayed crop year

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Man walking between combine and grain wagon
A wet spring set the stage for a delayed crop year in 2017, but yields were surprisingly good. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

SALEM, Ohio — Many farmers were forced to plant, or replant, well into June last spring, due to continuous rain, but local farmers had surprisingly good yields in 2017.

Prices, on the other hand, were down. On average, Ohio farmers got $3.50 per bushel for corn and $9.39 per bushel for soybeans, both down from the 2016 averages of $3.61 and $9.66 respectively, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Some got an early start planting in April. But many that took the opportunity for an early start got washed out when the rains came or frosted off,” said Lee Beers, Ohio State University Extension agronomist in Trumbull County.

“Planting was the longest drawn-out spring we’ve had in a long time,” said Scott Barth. “We were constantly waiting on the ground to get fit.”

Barth and his family farm more than 2,500 acres in Lawrence and Beaver counties in western Pennsylvania, and in Mahoning and Columbiana counties in eastern Ohio.

Slug highway

They replanted 50 acres of corn and 200 acres of soybeans, mostly due to slugs.

“Slugs love cool wet weather. They were thriving this year, which contributed to some of the replanting,” said Rachel Milliron, a Penn State agronomist in Armstrong County.

Crop year review 2017
Agronomists are still trying to figure out slug remedies across the Northeast and Midwest. With no-till planters not always closing the furrow, slugs munch along devouring the seeds. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

Agronomists are still trying to figure out slug remedies across the Northeast and Midwest, she said. “With no-till planters not always closing the furrow, they munch along the slug highway — as some people call it.”

By May 21, 84 percent of the 2017 corn crop was planted nationally, equal to last year but slightly behind the five-year average.

Summer’s heat

After such a wet spring, the summer didn’t bring as much water as some would have liked.

“If we would have had a good rain in August, it would have added 10 bushels per acre,” Barth said.

But, in Trumbull County, Beers cited a good amount of water for corn pollination.

White mold hit northeast Ohio hard this year, said Beers, “harder than we should have been.”

Some farmers saw 30 percent reductions in yields, he said, adding that farmers who had problems need to make better seed choices.

“With tight crop budgets and futures aren’t looking any better, resources are being spent down — we have to make sure we are making smart choices when it comes to seed,” he said.

Harvest

For harvest, the bulk of the western Pa.-eastern Ohio region had hot and dry weather and low moisture all around, agreed Milliron and Beers.

“It was so dry, many were shutting down combines in the middle of the day to lower their risk of fires,” said Beers. “It is always something to watch for”

There were two combines in Ashtabula County this year, that he knew of, that went up in flames.

In September, corn silage harvest had good weather and many easily met the 65 percent ideal moisture, said Milliron.

Then, in October and November, we had a lot of rain, closing the window for harvest, she said.

Dry conditions during November allowed corn producers to make good progress with harvest.

National numbers

National averages:

175.4 bushels per acre nationwide average for corn.

Production should reach 14.578 billion bushels compared to 15.148 billion a year ago with a 174.6 bushels per acre average.

Harvested corn for grain acres are estimated at 83.119 million, 3.6 million below 2016.

49.5 bushels per acre nationwide for soybeans, 2.5 less than 2016.

Soybean production is expected to reach 4.425 billion bushels compared to 4.296 last year.

USDA NASS’s Dec. 12 crop production report kept a 175.4 bushels per acre nationwide average for corn. If realized, production would reach 14.578 billion bushels, compared to 15.148 billion a year ago with a 174.6 bushels per acre average.

Harvested corn for grain acres are estimated at 83.119 million, 3.6 million below 2016.

The USDA kept the average soybean yield at 49.5 bushels per acre, 2.5 less than 2016. Production is expected to reach 4.425 billion bushels compared to 4.296 last year.

Soybean harvested area is projected at 89.471 million acres, nearly 6.8 million above last year.

Nationally, 95 percent of this year’s corn crop was harvested by Nov. 26, 3 percentage points behind both last year and the five-year average.

Harvest delayed

In Ohio, 87 percent of the state’s corn acres had been harvested by the end of November, 9 percent less than the five-year average of corn harvested by that date.

Ohio averaged 51 bushels per acre of soybeans, compared to 55 last year. Pennsylvania averaged 50 bushels per acre, up five from last year, according to NASS.

“The above-average rainfall played a part in this year’s story,” Milliron said. “But for most, they were pleasantly surprised by the results.”

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Katy Mumaw is a graduate of Ohio State University where she studied agricultural communications and Oklahoma State University earning her master's in agricultural leadership. The former Farm and Dairy reporter enjoys family time and sharing the stories of agriculture.

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