The fall weather in the 60- and 70-degree range is so refreshing after the miserable sweltering summer when 90-degree temperatures dominated. That hot summer weather was terrible to endure for us humans, but at least we can escape to air conditioning. The crops of Ohio agriculture were not as fortunate.
Ohio’s crops sweltered in the heat, but fared pretty well in most cases due to the regular rainfall that blessed most of the state. The hot weather also pushed Ohio’s crops, in many cases, to a record setting early harvest.
Ohio’s apple crop suffered some from the heat, but 2010 was generally a good year for apples.
“This has been a fantastic year for apple production. The quality, volume and everything have been just right,” said Ralph Hugus, owner of Hugus Fruit Farm in Fairfield County. “The summer heat was a plus and a minus. The heat and sun made for sweeter apples with better flavor, but we did have a few apples that were sun burnt. They basically cooked on the tree. That was not a big enough percentage to make any difference, though. We had the rains when we needed them all along. Dry conditions are not generally that serious of an issue with apples. Apple trees in general will tolerate dry weather better than other crops.”
The hot weather did create some challenges for marketing Hugus apples, however.
“We had an early spring and a warm summer, so we’re running a good two weeks ahead,” Hugus said. “We’ve always told customers to call us at a specific time to get specific varieties. This year they’ve been calling two weeks late because we’re two weeks early with harvest.”
The hot weather pushed the pumpkin crop along too. Dave Renick, owner of Renick’s Family Market in Pickaway County, said his pumpkins matured quickly with the heat, but got planted a little late this spring. As a result, he has a nice crop ready for customers this fall from his market along U.S. Highway 23 near Ashville. The key for pumpkins in hot weather is careful management of moisture levels with irrigation to keep the plants in good shape, he said.
Possibly the most dramatic early harvest of 2010 is for the corn and soybean crops that brought the combines out weeks early this fall. The Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service (OASS) reported on Oct. 18 that corn harvest was 64 percent complete. At the same time last year, Ohio’s farmers had harvested only 8 percent of the corn statewide. The soybean harvest in Ohio was 80 percent complete by mid-October compared to 33 percent harvested last year at the same time, according to OASS.
Jeff Roehm, an Ohio Corn Growers Association member from Highland County in southern Ohio, is even further along in harvest on his farm. He, like many other corn and soybean farmers around Ohio, was nearly finished harvesting by mid-October.
“We’re getting close to the end of harvest. We finished beans last Thursday and we’ll finish corn by the end of the week,” he said. “We’re at least two weeks ahead, maybe more than that. We like to finish beans by Halloween and corn by Thanksgiving. We’re well ahead of that.”
Yields of both crops have also been fairly strong thanks to rains throughout the season in many parts of the state that helped to counteract the extreme heat. OASS reports average yields of 167 bushels per acre for corn. The 2010 average soybean yield for Ohio is forecast at 48 bushels per acre.
Because most of the state’s winter wheat crop is planted in fields after the soybeans have been harvested, planting of the winter wheat crop is also running well ahead of schedule. Winter wheat planted in Ohio is now at 83 percent complete, up from 43 percent at the same time last year.
With such an early harvest, and pleasant fall weather, Ohioans better get outside now to take a drive, go for a country stroll or visit a farm market to enjoy the beautiful leaves, the bountiful harvest and the irresistible appeal of autumn on Ohio’s farms. Winter is coming soon.