Activity in area farm fields the past week following months of nearly constant wet weather has hardly been an occasion to celebrate.
Some of the movement has been to finally plant soybeans, which ideally should have been in the ground in May. Some has been to plant cover crops in place of corn which, due to persistent, heavy rains in the spring, barely, if at all, got planted.
The Farm and Dairy website has reported the past 12 months to be the wettest in Ohio in 124 years, and May of 2019 to be the second wettest month in U.S. history.
And though soybean farmers have planted as recently as the past week, and may still have a chance to profit, the late planting will guarantee smaller yields.
“We could have possible growing weather the rest of the season, but there are probably not going to be any record yields. No way,” said Roy Norman, Four County Farm Bureau organizational director.
Norman said activity in local fields does not indicate a second chance for corn farmers. Rather, they are probably putting in cover crops such as oats, grasses or alfalfa to keep the fields viable for future planting.
“That’s usually where the federal government steps into place. If they don’t have an income, there’s federal money available (for cover crops),” Norman said.
The farmers might also simply be removing weeds or aerating the soil, he said.
It’s been a year that witnessed cool temperatures and near-constant downpours through the spring turn practically overnight into stifling heat in June. Corn and soybean farmers have taken a beating older farmers are likening to the memorably terrible planting season of 1947.
In over two decades with the local farm bureau, Norman said he’s never seen such a catastrophic planting season. “Not even close. It was one, two, three inch rains, constantly,” he said.
According to The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, an estimated 81% of soybeans had been planted in Ohio by last week. That compares to a five-year average of 100%. Of the beans planted so far, only an estimated 62% will successfully emerge from the ground, as compared to the five-year average of 97%.
“This has been an extremely tough year for planting soybeans in Ohio, especially in the northwest section of the state,” said Kirk Merritt, executive director of the Ohio Soybean Council. “There are some farmers still working to get soybeans in the ground, but that number is dwindling.”
Merritt believes soybean farmers could still manage excellent yields if weather remains favorable until harvest time and pest infestation is minimal. He added, however, “We do not currently know what the yield effects will be due to the late planting.”
He said most farmers in the state carry crop insurance, which will help carry those unable to plant or with disastrous yields into the next season. But he also said it’s too early to know what impact late planting and weather conditions have on the crop’s yield.
The final day farmers could plant soybeans without facing a reduction in insurance coverage was June 20.
“This planting season has been an unprecedented challenge for Ohio farmers,” Merritt said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.