2010 corn harvest wrap-up

Despite the stretch of dry weather late in the season, Earl Wolf had respectable yields on his Stark County farm in 2010.

By Matt Reese

Stark County farmer Earl Wolf got an early start with harvest and finished early — Oct. 25, specifically. Wolf was not alone in his early finish. It was downright spooky with most of Ohio’s corn and soybean crop out of the fields before Halloween this year.

By Nov. 1, Ohio corn harvest was 91% complete, compared to the five-year average of 50%, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Soybeans were 97% harvested, with a five-year average for early November of 85%. Winter wheat emerged in Ohio was at 80%, with the average normally at 67%. The winter wheat crop rating for Ohio is 65% good to excellent, better than last year’s 61%.

Nationally, corn harvest was 91% complete compared to 24% last year and the 61% average, according to NASS. Soybeans were almost wrapped up at 96% harvested. Last year, soybeans were just half done by the same time. National wheat emergence is right at the average of 73%, with a crop condition at 46% good to excellent.

There has not been a harvest this early in recent memory.

“If you go back to the old days when we didn’t shell much corn, we might be done this early, but that doesn’t really count,” Wolf said. “We usually try to finish between the start of hunting season and Thanksgiving, not before Halloween.”

Wolf had a long stretch of dry weather that resulted in a somewhat disappointing 45 to 55 bushel per acre soybean yield range and corn yields ranging from 140 to 160 bushels. For more harvest results from around the state, visit www.ocj.com, go to “Crops” and then click on “Early Harvest Results.”

An early planting season interrupted by a stretch of May rains was a common theme around Ohio. The disjointed planting season was followed by a hot, dry summer that led to an early harvest. The average yields were good, but not great, as in 2009.

According to the NASS Crop Production Report in October, Ohio’s average corn yield is forecast at 167 bushels per acre, down 6 bushels from the previous month’s forecast. Total grain production is forecast at 547.76 million bushels, up slightly from last year’s state production total. Corn growers expect to harvest 3.28 million acres in 2010, up 140,000 acres from one year ago. Based on administrative data, planted acreage is estimated at 3.5 million acres, down 100,000 acres from the June estimate.

The 2010 average soybean yield for Ohio is forecast at 48 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month’s forecast, but 1 bushel below the 2009 average Ohio yield. Total state production is forecast at 224.64 million bushels, up 1% from 2009. Harvested acreage is forecast at 4.68 million acres, up 150,000 acres from last year. Based on administrative data, planted acreage is estimated at 4.7 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate.

As is the case most years, conditions were highly variable around Ohio, with some areas getting too much rain and some areas too dry.

“We got the double whammy syndrome this year in some parts of the state with wet conditions early in the season and then it turned hot and dry later,” said Peter Thomison, Ohio State University Extension corn specialist. “There were parts of the state where the high ground that usually yields less did much better than the low ground with the organic matter because of too much water. The difference was eye-popping. Plants were there in the low spots, and from a distance they looked OK, but there was no yield to speak of. “

The planting season got off to a very rapid start. According to NASS, by May 2, 64% of Ohio’s corn had been planted, which was 52% ahead of last year and 29% ahead of the five-year average. By early May 23% of Ohio soybeans were planted, compared to 3% last year and 12% for the five-year average.

While starting early has resulted in problems in the past, in most cases it proved to be the right decision this year. In early May, the rains started and did not stop for much of the month, stunting or killing corn and soybean plants in the low areas of fields.

“The people that got their corn in during April had plants that were far enough along to tolerate the saturated soil conditions when they were hit with the rains,” Thomison said. “The plants that were planted in May just couldn’t handle the stress and were more susceptible to the stress later in the season. The April corn that was planted when it was dry had developed better root systems.”

Once the plants made it through the floods of May, things really started to heat up.

“From the standpoint of maturity, the plants had plenty of heat units. You may not have been able to tell any differences in maturity with 107- and 111-day hybrids by the end of the season. Those late plantings benefited from the high temperatures in that they were able to mature rapidly and dry down. Last year they would have been 30% moisture at harvest with those late planting dates,” Thomison said. “With late-planted corn, you get good stands and, if you get the rain and the heat units, you can get good yields. But so often you don’t get those later rains.”

For several parts of the state, July was dry and August was dry, and the late planted corn with limited root systems suffered significantly.

“Yields in some places were just the luck of the draw based on when they got those timely rains. Some areas were hurt by the lack of rain in August,” Thomison said. “I think some of the top end yield we talk about may have been lost with all of the heat. We had some lower yields this year but we still got some very respectable yields in southwest and western Ohio where we had average yields well over 200 bushels in our trials. We had some hybrids over 250 bushels. If we hadn’t had those high temperatures, maybe we would have done even better. But it interesting to see that, where we had rain two years in a row the yields are pretty close, even with all of the heat this year. We may have some hybrids that are down 10 or 20 bushels, but there are still very good yields out there.”

And, unlike 2009, the 2010 corn was high quality and very dry, as low as 13% moisture right out of the field. Comparing the last two years can offer some other insights, Thomison said. Last year, while most of the state had consistent moisture, a strip through northwest Ohio was very dry, but cool temperatures reduced the stress on the plants.

“Last year we had pockets around Kenton and Lima that were really dry and they were pleasantly surprised with yields because they did not have the high temperatures,” Thomison said. “They did better than they expected last year in the dry areas and this year we might have seen the flip side. I think some growers thought they were going to do better than they did. The combination of poor root development from the rain in May and June, plus the high temperatures and lack of water in August was a recipe for reduced yields.”

And, though conditions for the development of disease were present, particularly early in the growing season, they did not become much of a problem.

“We didn’t really see the diseases this year. It was present in fields and there were good conditions for disease, but the crop dried down so quickly, it stayed ahead of the disease,” Thomison said. “The corn was standing very well through harvest.”

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