Recent rains may have turned the tide
By RYAN CARTER, CARLETA WEYRICH and ANDREA CHAFFIN for ACRES Southwest Ohio
Has the recent showers and storms brought needed relief to southern Ohio farmers?
Maybe some, but maybe not enough.
The crop progress report released this week from the United States Department of Agriculture indicate that Ohio is still under significant drought stress. Corn across the state is 82 percent silked compared to 23 percent at the same date last year, and 28 percent ahead of the five-year average.
Of the 82 percent of corn that has silked, 12 percent of that corn has reached the dough stage of development compared to a five-year average of only 4 percent. The dough stage of corn develop occurs around 24–28 days after pollination and has received that name due to the “doughy” consistency of the inner kernels.
Given the extremely dry conditions that have made this a stressful year for area growers, the overall crop in Fayette County has progressed fairy well, according to local agriculture officials.
“All growing season we have been talking about the early planting and how physiologically we are close to a month ahead of previous growing seasons,” said Adam Shepard, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator at the Ohio State University Extension Office’s Fayette County branch. “Well, this season like all others has thrown us a few curveballs. Although we have started receiving some significant rainfalls that will help the crops immensely, rainfall totals have varied greatly across the county.
“Although the corn is significantly ahead of last year, that does not mean that the crop is not in excellent condition,” said Shepard. “Over two-thirds of the state’s corn is characterized as anywhere from very poor to fair condition with only 15 percent of corn being classified as good or excellent. At this time, it is still too early to know for sure exactly how much the drought and extreme heat has hurt this year’s crop.”
The soybean crop across the state is in slightly better shape than the corn is, according to the report. In terms of development, the soybeans in the state are at around 78 percent bloomed which is 46 percent ahead of this date one year ago and 18 percent ahead of the five-year average.
Of the 78 percent of plants blooming, 21 percent of those plants have begun setting pods for grain fill. With last year’s late planting, that total was only 4 percent of the crop setting pods compared to the 13 percent five-year average.
Overall, the crop condition is very similar to corn with around 80 percent of the state’s soybean crop being classified as “very poor to fair.”
“Finally we must remember that while the lack of rainfall is detrimental to our county’s crops, it is also extremely important to the pasture and hay acres of the county,” said Shepard. “Growers count on green pastures to feed the animals over the summer while also allowing them to store hay for feeding during the winter months. The heat and lack of rainfall has also reduced the quantity and quality of pastures and limited the amount of hay being made to this point in the growing season.”
While the actual effects of the summer’s heat and inadequate rainfall have yet to be realized, timely rainfalls and more favorable temperatures can still have a positive effect on grain fill in both corn and soybeans, Shepard said.
The big question at the Adams County Fair in mid-July was “do you have any hay for sale?” — but they weren’t looking for hay to feed the fair projects.
“We’re getting reports that the pastures are in bad shape, and some people are already feeding hay to their livestock,” said Phil Swayne, executive director of the Adams County office of the Farm Service Agency. “The USDA has released CRP acreage in any county listed as a D-0, or abnormally dry, on the U.S. Drought Monitor for emergency harvest of hay and grazing. We are currently a D-1 or moderate drought.”
“I got a total of 0.61 of an inch of rain during fair week — I’m thankful I got what I got,” said Roger Rhonemus, who lives on Compton Hill Road in the central section of Adams County. “I have a clover– timothy field in front of the house. It was pretty brown — there may not be any grass left, but I noticed the field looks more green since the rain.”
Spotty is the word that best describes the condition of Adams County grain crops — all dependent on how much rain fell where during the past two months. According to rough estimates, there are 18,250 acres of corn and 18,890 acres of soybeans planted this year in the county.
Corn is stressed more than soybeans, according to Swayne and Rhonemus.
“The corn has been tasseling and pollinating — a time when moisture is important, but there hasn’t been any to speak of,” Swayne said.
“There’s a potential the yields will be all over the scale,” said Rhonemus. “The soybeans will be O.K. if we get rain — it’s not over until we get to the first of September.”
Tony Nye, OSU Extension educator in Clinton County for agriculture and natural resources, said that while rainfall during the July 21 weekend helped local crops, it wasn’t enough to put the area in the clear.
“We’re definitely not out of the woods,” he said. “Pray for rain.”
Nye estimates that the county could lose 20 percent of its corn crop.
“Some of the corn has definitely been hurt because of the impact of the drought. The damage is done; it can’t be turned around or reserved.”
Most of the damage is due to lack of pollination, minimal pollination or in some cases sporadic pollination because of variating field by field conditions, he said. Many differences depend on whether ground is flat or rolling, and the type of soil. Additionally, some varieties of crops handle stress differently. As for the end result, it’s all variable depending on what rainfall the area continues to get.
“In regards to corn, the damage is done if there’s damage out there,” he said.
Expectations are a bit more optimistic for the soybean crop. The rainfall was a “Godsend” for it, but it’s too early to know its potential, Nye said.
“That’s exactly what the beans needed. They’re so dependant on the next month of weather. As to the final result, it’s a true guessing game as to what the potential is. We got very beneficial rain last week, but we need it every week.”
The worst drought Nye experienced was in 1988. Clinton County still managed to average 100 bushels. This season may yield somewhere around 135 bushels, Nye said.
“I don’t think we’re as bad as that year, but we have areas of the state that are as bad if not worse,” he said.
Still, there is so much variability from one end of a field to another, it’s difficult to guage what the result will be, Nye said.
“We’re doing lots of hoping,” he said. “Until we get the combines out at harvest time, we won’t know how bad the end result is with the drought.
We’re at a critical point. We need rain — not a shower here or there.”