COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rain from the remnants of Hurricane Katrina arrived too late to benefit most of Ohio's drought-stressed corn crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been asked to designate 72 Ohio counties as disaster areas due to the drought, enabling farmers impacted to apply for federal assistance. But despite the state of some cornfields, other fields are producing a decent crop that's driving up USDA's yield projections.
"Some growers are saying that this year is as bad as 2002, where at this time that year, only 13 percent of the crop was rated in good to excellent condition," said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. "But according to USDA, the crop right now is 46 percent good to excellent. So it's a mixed bag. Some areas took a beating, but other areas are sitting on a good crop."
USDA's yield projection for Ohio as of Sept. 1 is 141 bushels per acre, up from 135 bushels per acre the month prior. By comparison, average yields last year were a record-breaking 158 bushels per acre.
Thomison said that most of the corn crop is maturing too rapidly for the rains to have had any benefit, but added that the rapid maturation, due to warm, dry weather, will probably allow growers to harvest their corn earlier than anticipated.
"Warm, dry conditions are excellent for corn dry-down. We lose about a percent of moisture a day when we have this kind of weather during this time of the growing season," said Thomison. "Prompt harvest is highly desirable since stalk quality is problematic this year. A prompt harvest will be critical in many fields to avoid major stalk lodging."
Indeed, a small percentage of growers are already harvesting their crop, specifically those fields that were severely drought-damaged.
"Some of the late-planted corn may have benefited from recent rains, but on a large scale, the crop season is over for corn," said Thomison. "In fact, there may be some cases where the rains were detrimental to the crop, fostering stalk rot."
Thomison said that because of the rains, some diseases, such as gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight, are showing up late in the season, but have arrived too late cause any serious problems.