COLUMBUS, Ohio – As farmers near completion of the 2011 harvest, Ohio State University corn extension specialist Peter Thomison said that despite major weather challenges at planting and harvest, yields were largely better than expected across much of Ohio.
“Given that most of the state’s corn acreage was planted after May 31,yields have been surprisingly good. Even in some of those areas along the Indiana border that got really dry weather, yields have usually been better than we expected,” said Thomison, a professor of horticulture and crop science. “On the other hand, we have growers that planted in early June who had very favorable growing conditions after planting and they’re seeing yields of 200 bushels or more. Corn planted in early June wouldn’t normally be expected to yield that well.”
For many parts of Ohio, weather conditions turned optimal for corn production after the relatively late planting was completed.
“Corn yields are typically more consistent when we plant in late April and early May, and we see more variability in yield potential the later we plant,” he explained. “That is a function of weather conditions on late-planted corn. Late planted corn is often exposed to hotter and drier conditions during the critical pollination and grain filling period than corn planted in late April and early May.”
For many parts of Ohio, on the other hand, Thomison said timely rains made a considerable impact on the crop’s yield potential.
“Some people still remember 2002 when we had a lot of corn planted after June 1 and we ran into a major drought that devastated yields,” Thomison pointed out. “Late-planted corn can yield well, if environmental conditions are favorable. In a year like 2002 when it basically stopped raining after June, you can have a debacle, but we didn’t see that this year.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that as of Sunday, Nov. 21, farmers had harvested 69 percent of Ohio’s corn crop and 93 percent of the state’s soybeans. Last year at the same point in the season, harvest of both crops was statistically finished.
Thomison said the concern now is the potential for yield loss the longer the crop stays in the field.
“Generally when harvest is delayed we start to see more yield losses after early- to mid-November,” he said. “Yield losses are often limited up to that point, but once we get into late November and December, the crop can deteriorate more rapidly due to increased stalk lodging, ear drop, wildlife damage, and other issues.”
For many producers, the high moisture content (as high as 25% or more in some cases) of the grain yet to be harvested is a major reason to let corn dry in the field.
“Usually corn doesn’t dry down much further after early to mid November,” he cautioned.
Another concern that might keep harvest from wrapping up more quickly is the impact – literally and figuratively – of machinery moving across wet soils causing deep ruts and tracks. Some farmers especially in areas of state that received more rain in late November are waiting for soils to freeze before they resume harvesting in order to minimize such damage.
NASS said precipitation across Ohio during the last week of November averaged 1.51 inches, 0.86 inches above normal. In its rating of soil moisture, the agency said Ohio soils were rated 48 percent adequate and 52 percent surplus at the topsoil level.
Despite the seemingly numerous challenges facing farmers throughout the 2011 growing season, Thomison said one fact remains: most farmers harvested, or are harvesting, a much better crop than expected.
“What it boils down to, very simply, is rainfall and temperatures. If we get timely rains and moderate temperatures during the pollination and grain-fill periods, you have the potential for high yields.”