Fulton County soybean crops will prove to be the most consistent in five years, but due to a hot, dry summer local farmers are facing a far from stellar corn crop.
Area soybean crops will be harvested beginning the end of September, and farmers should be pleasantly surprised, according to Eric Richer, Fulton County OSU Extension educator. Yields should be a bushel or two above the five-year average of 52 bushels per acre.
“We have one of the most consistent soybean crops that we’ve had in the last five years,” Richer said. “It’s not going to be a record winner, but the soybean crop, unlike that of the corn, looks a little bit more consistent across the county.”
Dry weather that carried into August may eventually reduce some of the crop’s yield, he said. If there is more moisture prior to harvest only the deep green bean fields will benefit.
Still, this soybean season was one of the most pest-free in recent years.
Unfortunately, welcomed rainfalls on Aug. 14 and Aug. 28 weren’t enough to reverse the damage done to cornfields this season after days of 90-plus degree temperatures, Richer said.
“That will add a little bit of yield in the form of weight but it won’t make up the yield that was lost in late July,” he said. “Our corn is pretty well made. There’s not going to be a lot to influence it at this point. It’s been a pretty disappointing year for the corn market, and production is going to be average.”
Richer predicts yields in the area of 170 bushels per acre, an amount similar to the current five-year trend. Some fields that received sufficient rainfall do have the potential for a record-setting season.
Conversely, some corn planted in the county’s courser, sandier soil was hurt significantly by the season’s dry conditions. “It just didn’t hold any water and was detrimental to yields,” Richer said. “There were some fields hurt pretty bad.”
The result is a fairly great disparity in the corn crop, he added. “It has taken off some of our top-end yield of our corn crop. But in general we’re going to have average corn crops.”
Richer said many disappointing aspects of the corn season are being driven by COVID-19. Approximately 40% of corn grown in the U.S. is used to produce ethanol as a gasoline additive. Less travel brought on by the coronavirus means less ethanol production.
Richer emphasized that, despite his somewhat gloomy forecast of this year’s corn crop, “these are my thoughts today. We’ll know more when the combines roll” in October.
Corn crops across the state are faring no better. Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Association, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting only average yields of about 170 bushels per acre due to the dry conditions.
“The rains that we’ve had are nice but we need more of them,” he said. Nicholson said a majority of the state’s crop is in the fair to good range, and while he’s still cautiously optimistic the price of corn is currently below the cost of production.
“It’s just not going to be a real profitable year. Not devastating but not profitable,” he said. “(The rain) either happens or it doesn’t happen, but this year we didn’t get timely rains to produce exceptional yields.”
Nicholson said ethanol production would push corn back into a profitable price range, but production at the state’s six operating ethanol plants has been reduced by about 50%. A seventh plant was scheduled to reopen but remains closed.
“We’ve got a big pile of corn and it’s not getting used up as we’d usually like,” he said.
A representative of the Ohio Soybean Association did not return calls for comment.
Lawrence Onweller of rural Delta farmed 800 acres of corn and 500 acres of soybeans this season. He expects a close to normal soybean yield of 60 bushels per acre, thanks, in part, to two particularly substantial rainfalls in the past month. His corn crop is another story.
“It started out nice, then we had a real dry July and August, and that’s hurt it,” he said.
The dry weather and heat, which included multiple 90 degree days, contributed to a lot of tipback. The condition prevents kernels from filling out an entire ear of corn.
Onweller is expecting to reap 170 to 175 bushels of corn per acre, substantially lower than the 200 bushels he’d hoped for.
“Profit-wise, it’s a lot less. It’s just always about the weather,” he said. “(But) we’ve seen a lot worse than this.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.