You can’t believe it. You spent months working on a big presentation at work and the day of the big event you got a terrible strain of the flu and couldn’t be there. As a result, Steve -- the tardy guy at the office who never takes showers -- had to fill in for you. Of course, Steve showed up late and your clients couldn’t concentrate on the presentation because he smelled of old socks and musty cantaloupe.
Our fellow humans can make for pretty poor coworkers, but working in a cooperative relationship with the weather can make even stinky Steve at the office seem appealing. As in any profession, agriculture’s high quality crop production is a team effort requiring coordinated cooperation of all participants. The challenge with agriculture is that the weather is an important coworker on every farm project.
The weather does show up to work every day, but that is the only thing about it that is dependable. At any minute, the Ohio weather can change for the better or worse. It is entirely possible for Ohio crops to experience late frost in the spring, too hot, too cold, too much water in the spring, too little water in the summer, hail, and high winds all in one growing season (much like in 2008).
Some years, the weather just does not cooperate for Ohio’s farmers. But some years it does. While the growing season is not yet done, 2009 is shaping up to be a very good year for Ohio crop production. Timely rainfall, cool temperatures, technology, and sound farming practices have combined for potentially record setting state average yields.
Following the early summer wheat harvest, the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service estimated winter wheat yields at 71 bushels per acre, just one bushel shy of the record of 72 bushels per acre set in 2000.
“This was the kind of year where if a wheat variety is outstanding, cooperating weather and low insect and disease pressures can show how good a variety really is,” said Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. “There really wasn’t much this year to hold the yields back.”
Like wheat, Ohio’s corn crop is also performing well thanks to the weather conditions and low insect and disease pressures. If disease levels remain low, and good harvest conditions persist through the fall, corn production should be excellent in Ohio this year.
The state’s average corn yield is estimated at 165 bushels per acre. If the number holds up, it will be a new state record, six bushels higher than the previous record set in 2006.
“The environment, timely rains and moderate temperatures, have been the major factors in driving these high yields,” said Peter Thomison, an OSU Extension agronomist. “Moreover, when nighttime temperatures are relatively low, as has been the case much of this summer, it’s beneficial for the corn crop because it’s reducing respiration and promoting a longer grain fill period.”
Despite some disease pressures, such as white mold, brown stem rot and sudden death syndrome, Ohio’s soybean crop is also performing well this year. According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, only 6 percent of the soybean crop is in poor condition. Soybean yield is estimated at 47 bushels per acre, tying the record set in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Continued rains this month will be crucial to the success of the state’s soybean crop.
Every year, farmers must lay the groundwork for great yields by picking the right crop rotation, planting the proper hybrids and varieties, selecting the best seed population, choosing the ideal disease, pest and weed control strategies and a myriad of other factors to maximize the potential for a profitable year. After that, the farmers’ unpredictable coworker takes it from there.
The weather was certainly not ideal everywhere in Ohio this year. Parts of northwest Ohio, in particular, faced some pretty dry conditions that will hurt corn and soybean yields. But, in general, it appears that the weather really came through this year, so far. Only time will tell if the weather will continue to cooperate through the harvest of 2009 or if it will pull a stinky Steve.
Matt Reese writes for Ohio’s Country Journal and lives in Baltimore, Ohio. For questions or comments, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column was brought to you by Ohio’s agricultural organizations.