COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's corn crop is heading for its second consecutive year of record-breaking yields, something that Ohio State University Extension agricultural specialists say is unheard-of in the world of crop production.
According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, the crop's state average is currently sitting at 160 bushels per acre. This year's state average has already broken last season's production average of 156 bushels per acre, and the number just may continue to climb.
"The yields this year have been outstanding. Who would have known last September or October that we'd be looking at two years back-to-back with record-breaking yields," said Peter Thomison, an OSU Extension agronomist.
Added OSU Extension plant pathologist Pat Lipps, "It's pretty amazing to see a 10 percent jump in state average yields."
Some growers are seeing yields ranging from 180-240 bushels per acre with their early-planted crop. Even corn that was planted late in the season is pulling in 150-180 bushels per acre. Ohio State specialists speculate that a variety of factors throughout the growing season may have contributed to the record high yields.
"The No. 1 factor was probably the adequate, well-timed rainfall and after that moderate temperatures. Temperatures in August, for example, were averaging as much as four degrees below normal," said Thomison. "Some growers and agronomists speculated that this might actually have an adverse effect on yields, and for all we know, those temperatures may very well have impacted the crop. Maybe our yields could have been higher. But those growers sitting on record-breaking yields are certainly not complaining about it."
Lipps added that the development of hybrids geared toward yield potential and the careful management decisions of the growers may also have played a part in such a successful growing season. Despite the exceptional yields, however, several issues are popping up that growers need to pay close attention to.
One is the development of northern corn leaf blight, a disease that can cause significant yield losses. Lipps said that the planting of susceptible hybrids is mainly the cause behind the disease rearing its ugly head.
" Besides the favorable weather, one of the biggest impacts is that there are a number of susceptible varieties being grown," said Lipps. "It's a heads-up for us all to put a little more effort in getting those hybrids with good resistance out there."
The most obvious characteristic of northern corn leaf blight is the development of dark-brown or tan colored cigar-shaped lesions on the plant leaves.
"There is no other disease out there that you can confuse it with," said Lipps. "It only takes a few lesions to actually kill the leaf. New spores are produced in the lesions and the disease spreads throughout the plant population fairly quickly."
Good management practices in controlling northern corn leaf blight include crop rotation, as the disease tends to show up in continuous corn, tillage (since incorporating the fungus into the soil will kill it), and planting resistant varieties.
Agronomists generally recommend that growers harvest their corn as soon as it's within dry-down — 24-25 percent grain moisture — to avoid any potential lodging problems.
But a quick harvest is proving to be a challenge for many growers this year.
Lipps said that growers are running into storage issues because of the high corn yields, and are opting to leave their corn in the field for the moment despite dry-down readiness.
"There's just more corn than they have room to store, so growers are trying to figure out how to deal with that," said Lipps.
Thomison added that the high cost of propane, which is used to dry down corn, is also forcing growers to leave their corn in the field longer than they would like. "The longer corn stands in the field," said Thomison, "the higher the chances for corn lodging."
Nearly half of the state's corn crop has been harvested.