The winter that never wanted to end finally did in a wash of major springtime rains, mixed with splashes of warm weather and stretches of cool weather to make for a long planting season on many farms in Ohio.
Late May finally brought the nice stretch of warm temperatures and sunshine that many parts of the state were waiting for to hit the fields hard. The percentage of Ohio corn planted in the state jumped nearly 20 percentage points in the week ending June 1. Soybean planting progress jumped even higher from 34% planted to 66% planted heading into June.
Don Ralph, who farms with his family in Marion County, experienced a little bit of everything this often-challenging planting season had to offer.
“We got in during the early part of May to get maybe a third of our corn and beans planted,” he said. “Then we didn’t get back in until the Friday before Memorial Day and finished in early June.”
In late May, though, the already planted fields on Ralph’s home farm got pummeled with a massive amount of rain that may have dampened the hopes for a big yielding growing season for some fields.
“We had anywhere from four to six inches of rain. It got away pretty well, but what the consequences will be I don’t know yet. I am more worried about the crops that were not up yet. It was a lot of rain,” he said. “And, believe it or not, four or five miles south, we never quit planting. We got the storm right here and it just stayed on top of us. It made you want to sit down and cry when you first looked at it. There was lot of water running everywhere. Every day it looks a whole lot better and we’ll just have to wait and see how it all works out.”
So much rain fell so fast that it caused additional problems downstream.
“The little Scioto caught a lot of this rain and it got out of its banks. A neighbor of mine downriver where we were able to work got a field of beans just planted as nice as could be,” Ralph said. “I went by there the other day and the river had come up so high that water was coming back up the tile and he had a pond of water in the field and he got very little rain.”
Ralph has seen many growing seasons and he has learned to take the challenges in stride.
“When you have done this for as long as I have, you learn to deal with the cards you are dealt. I think we can still raise a very respectable crop,” he said. “This was about an average time for us to finish if you look at the last 15 or 20 years. The stands that are up are looking very good.”
While Ralph and the other corn and soybean farmers in the state were scrambling to get their crop planted between the extremely variable conditions, Richard Minyo was hard at work dodging raindrops around the state planting the plots at the 10 locations for the Ohio State University Ohio Corn Performance Trials. In 65 acres in university locations around Ohio, Minyo planted 9,000 test plots with around 220 different corn hybrids.
“There is Hebron, Washington Courthouse, South Charleston, and Greenville in the southern region. Up north we have Van Wert, Hoytville, and Upper Sandusky and our Northeast Region is Bucyrus, Wooster and Beloit, so we cover the entire state,” Minyo said. “The big rains missed all of our locations. South Charleston got an inch when Troy got six inches and the next big rain split at that location and it just sprinkled.”
Minyo watches the calendar, the weather and the field conditions around the state closely to make the best of what Mother Nature offers each planting season.
“If we are ready in April we try to go south first, but once we get past May 1 we go wherever is ready. We watch the field conditions and the weather forecasts and decide where to go from there,” he said. “We have excellent local farmers who help as cooperators who give us a heads up when they think conditions will be fit in their fields in the area. That helps us plan a little bit. We were very fortunate this year in planning where we went which day. One example was when we went to Hebron. It was supposed to rain, but we got it put in and we were done by 2:00 in the afternoon. Then it rained six tenths that night which would have kept us out for a couple of days if we hadn’t gotten it planted.”
Though the number of acres he covers is not large, managing, organizing and implementing the details of the plot planting process is a daunting task.
“It is all done on the computer ahead of time,” he said. “We build a field map based on soil types and borders, then load it into the planter. I built field maps for every location for every hybrid before we ever started. You need a good filing system and 20 years of experience helps.”
In all, Minyo’s planting schedule was later than he would prefer in 2014, but the crop is off to a good start.
“We started Friday of Memorial Day weekend and then planted for nine days straight and finished up on May 31. We are about two weeks later than we would like to be with planting, but we want to be as close to the normal producer’s growing season as possible,” he said. “We got a new planter and we were ready to go, but the trailer for hauling it was delivered late. Then it got cold and wet and I was glad I was not out there that early. Everything is in and looking good. We are looking forward to a good growing season and some good numbers this year.”