COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Despite an abnormally dry season, and in some cases a severe drought, Ohio's corn harvest is wrapping up with better-than-expected yields, much to the surprise of growers and agronomists alike.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's October production report, average statewide yield is anticipated to top 150 bushels per acre. If realized, it will be the fourth highest yield on record, behind record-breaking seasons in 2003 (156 bushels per acre), 2004 (158 bushels per acre), and 2006 (159 bushels per acre). Ohio growers are anticipated to harvest 3.6 million acres this year, the most harvested since 1986.
"People are baffled, although happily so. They are asking where all the yield is coming from," said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. "I think the phenomenal performance of this year's corn crop points to the genetics and continued improvement of the hybrids. It also emphasizes the gaps in our knowledge about how corn responds to weather. With the protracted periods of dry weather this season, we expected average yields at best in many fields, but we certainly didn't anticipate the bumper yields we have been seeing."
Thomison said that in some cases, growers are averaging 200 bushels an acre.
"Although there are some localized areas that were impacted from the weather and yields have suffered, there are other areas where it's just the opposite," said Thomison, who also holds a research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Over 75 percent of Ohio's corn crop has been harvested compared to 32 percent this time last year and 13 percent ahead of the five-year average, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service.
"Corn is coming off quickly, and because of the dry weather we've had the corn has dried down very quickly as well. Corn moisture content is often below 15 percent, which is unusual," said Thomison. "Corn that was planted in May is well below 25 percent moisture and corn planted in southwest Ohio the end of June has reached blacklayer."
The only concern Thomison has expressed is the potential for lodging problems if the corn is left in the field too long -- generally beyond mid-November.
"Growers who may be waiting for storage space to free up are running a risk if they leave their corn in the field too long. Stalk rots predispose the crop to lodging, and ears fall off more readily the longer the crop stays in the field," said Thomison. "Corn has been so dry this year, that in some cases, the crop is more brittle and the ears pop off the plant more readily. Some growers are already experiencing losses because of this, so it's important to get out there and harvest as quickly as possible."
Corn is one of Ohio's most valuable field crop commodities. Ohio is ranked sixth in the nation in grain production. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, corn production contributes $1.5 billion to agriculture. Feed grain serves as a main component of corn production, but the crop is also becoming an integral source for ethanol.