It was May 17 and the corn planter had yet to cover an acre on the farm of Steve Birkemeier in Putnam County. Many of the neighbors had already finished planting and the Birkemeiers hadn’t started.
The family runs a repair shop focused primarily on farm equipment and their customers always come first, even before planting their own crops. Steve, his son, Nate, and nephew, Ryan, also rebuilt the planter this year and had to get numerous bugs worked out of the system this spring amid working on everyone else’s equipment. As a result of their busy farm shop spring schedule, late planting is normal for the Birkemeiers.
“Two years ago we planted later than this and had some of the best yields we ever had,” Steve said on May 17. “The weather has been favorable for planting the last couple of weeks — the work at the shop hasn’t, and that’s OK. The customers at the shop come first. Once we get going, we can have all of our corn planted in five or six days.”
Even with numerous challenges, the Birkemeiers were closing in on finishing planting by late May. In the always evolving world of agriculture, no two planting season are quite the same. But, when looking at the big picture in Ohio, 2013 has been, well, normal.
“This was more of a normal year than we have seen in a while. Last year we got going so early and the year before was so late it was scary. The optimal time to really be going is the beginning of May in this area and by then, they were out and going pretty strong around here,” said Brian George, a Seed Consultants, Inc. seedsman who works in eight northwest Ohio counties. “It actually kind of worked out pretty well. In April, we thought it was going to be late May or early June by the way things looked. But, it ended up that they were going in early May. If you can ever say that a year is normal, this one was, or as close as you can get to a normal year, especially compared to the last couple of years.”
For most of Ohio, April was plagued by cool, wet conditions that started to make many farmers feel a little antsy (which is normal). There were a few windows to get some fieldwork or early planting in, but as May drew near, it was looking like a pretty slow start to 2013.
“A couple of guys did get out and get some field work done in April. They had to battle the cold weather and a couple of rains, but it all worked out just fine. Around May 3 or 4, people really started going hard at it, picking out the fields where they could get started. Then, most guys were getting done around the 15th or the 20th of May,” George said. “There was nothing too crazy with diseases and insects. Corn looks fantastic and it is growing strong. The beans did not get much moisture at first and they were stagnant for a while, but then we got a great rain of anywhere from .7 to 1.2 inches in the area. Another planting year is in the books and it was really pretty normal.”
The statewide planting progress reports from USDA also show a normal planting season for Ohio. While planting progress started out slow, corn and soybean planting was right on pace with the five-year average by the May 12 progress report and then moved ahead of the planting pace later in May.
The Ohio weather was also fairly close to the historic “normal.”
“Even though we had a very chilly March, April and May have turned out to be slightly warmer than normal and slightly drier than normal in the east and slightly wetter than normal in western sections of the state,” said Jim Noel, with the NOAA, who contributes to the Ohio State University Extension CORN Newsletter. “Temperatures since April 1 are actually averaging 1 to 2 degrees above normal (just seems not as warm after the record warm 2012) across the state and rainfall is average within about an inch of normal in most places. For what we call normal, we really can’t get much more normal in Ohio than this.”