COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sometimes the early bird doesn't get the worm.
Acres of corn throughout Ohio, planted as early as the week of April 12, are being replanted due to seed damage and death from a spat of cold, wet weather that swept throughout the state just days after planting.
The good news, though, is that the crop was replanted in time to still potentially produce good yields, said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist.
"Replanting corn depends on the calendar date and many growers were able to get back into their fields by early May," said Thomison. "For those growers who replanted in early-to-mid May, the corn could still perform well and produce decent yields."
Though hopes are high for corn performance, agronomists and industry specialists are billing the replanting situation as one of the worst in recent years.
"Replanting is from Michigan all the way to the Ohio river, mostly on the west side of the state. In any given year, acreage replanting is normally 10 percent to 15 percent statewide, but this year we are probably approaching 25 percent to 30 percent replanting," said Pat Lipps, an Ohio State plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "This is a very unusual situation. In the 26 years I've been here, I've never seen it quite like this. It's one of those environmental situations that just happens. Mother Nature throws us a curve ball and we are just going to have to deal with it."
A late season snowfall in April, followed by a week of cold rain set the stage for cold soil temperatures and soil crusting that damaged seedlings, either killing them outright or causing germination delays.
"Growers who make the decision to replant need to dig up the plants and assess the damage directly. Those seedlings that were able to produce a mesocotyl (the section of the shoot right above the seed) and a nodal (permanent) root system are going to be much better off than those plants relying on the seminal root system (those that are associated with the seed)," said Lipps. "You want to look for the development of the nodal root system and a bright white or cream colored mesocotyl. If the nodal roots or mesocotyl are brown, then chances are that plant will die."
Financially speaking, replanting corn has not been a major issue for most Ohio growers.
"A lot of farmers have replant insurance which covers anywhere from $16 to $18 of the cost of replanting," said Thomison. "In addition to the insurance, in some cases, they also had 100 percent free seed to replant. Most seed companies guarantee 50 percent of replanted seed; some will provide 100 percent."
Despite the hassles with replanting, growers are still recommended to plant as early as possible in any given growing season.
"Many growers have several thousand acres to plant and it's just not feasible to plant everything on the optimal planting date (late April-early May)," said Thomison. "Corn planted one to two weeks before the optimal planting date will usually outyield corn planted two weeks after the optimal period. From that standpoint, it's generally better to plant two weeks before the optimal planting date than two weeks after, despite what Mother Nature may dish out."