COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A wet spring, dry summer and a hurricane in the fall dragged down Ohio corn yields, but it could have been worse, according to an Ohio State University Extension agronomist.
"The yields for corn were about five bushels below trendline and the main reason was weather-related stresses," said Peter Thomison, who also holds an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "We may have had a wet spring and a protracted dry spell that lasted through the grain fill period, but in most areas we didn't have exceptionally hot weather in August. If we would have had blistering hot days in August, we could have been looking at yields comparable to 2002."
In that year, corn yields averaged a paltry 89 bushels per acre, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2008, corn yields averaged 135 bushels per acre, 15 bushels per acre lower than in 2007. Total state production of 421 million bushels is 22 percent below the 2007 total.
There were several weather-related factors that set us up for the yields we came away with," said Thomison. "We had exceptionally wet weather in the spring and much of the corn that grew in those wet conditions produced fairly shallow root systems. There may have been a fair amount of soil moisture but the roots simply couldn't extract that moisture and it hurt us tremendously in some locations when dry weather conditions began in June and July."
Dry weather wasn't the only factor that depressed corn yields.
"You remember what happened in September? That's when we got clobbered by the winds associated with Hurricane Ike," said Thomison. "The magnitude of the damage was staggering from the standpoint of stalk and root lodging. There were some situations where corn was lying flat on the ground. Because of the drought stress, the corn crop in much of the state was already predisposed to stalk rot and at great risk to stalk lodging prior to Hurricane Ike."
The stalk lodging prevented some farmers from adequately harvesting corn ears, and in some cases required equipment specially designed to harvest downed corn. The severity of lodging slowed harvest and grain dry-down.
Despite the weather-related problems, some growers still managed to come away with upwards of 200 bushels per acre.
"If you look at the Ohio Corn Performance Trials, we had fields that were averaging yields at 200 bushels or more," said Thomison. "At some sites, corn may have been lying flat on the ground, but we still generated fairly good yields."
Corn is Ohio's most valuable field crop commodity. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, corn production contributes $2.1 billion to agriculture. Feed grain serves as a main component of corn production, but the crop is also becoming an integral source for ethanol.