A look at the 2021 harvest

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff

By mid-November, Ohio’s corn and soybean growers had already seen the first statewide snow of the season, but were nearing completion of harvest and close to the 5-year average in terms of progress, according to Cheryl Turner, State Statistician, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio Field Office. 

Corn harvest was slightly ahead of last year and on pace with the 5-year average with 78% of the crop harvested. Soybean harvest progress still lagged slightly behind both last year and the 5-year average at 88% on Nov. 14. 

Yield reports for soybeans were generally strong around many parts of Ohio. Maximizing those yields in many fields started with an early planting date and timely rainfall. According to research by Laura Lindsey, Ohio State University Extension State Soybean and Small Grains Specialist, the best yields in the 2021 variety trials have come from early April planted soybeans that caught timely rains in the R3 to R5 growth stage. 

“According to the USDA NASS data, 7% of soybeans were planted in April this year, which was more than the past several years,” Lindsey said. “We had some trials that we started planting on April 5, and the soil temperatures and conditions were nearly perfect.” 

The growing conditions a soybean plant experiences throughout the season impact the yield. There are key times when rainfall is more critical than others. 

“The weather was pretty good this summer for soybeans. I know that there were some areas in the state that got dry, but moisture was pretty good in most areas of the state,” Lindsey said. “We had timely plantings this year, and especially some early plantings, followed by timely rainfall, particularly in the R3 to R5 growth stages. That really helped.” 

While early planting is important, each year is different. 

“Last year the later planted soybeans in Wood County yielded the highest in our trials,” Lindsey said. “The difference was the rainfall, and if you look at when the rains came, it was when the later planted soybeans were in the R3 to R5 growth stage.”

In general, Lindsey still recommends planting soybeans early, as long as the ground is fit and soil temperatures are conducive. 

“Early planting is still important. We learned in our trials when the stand was reduced by a frost and looked really bad, if the population is 50,000 plants per acre or more, then it was best to leave it. Just be sure you have adequate weed control,” she said.

The 2021 corn planting season was split-up this year with conditions requiring corn replant in some parts of Ohio. 

“Corn planting was uneven with some replanting needed, particularly in the southern part of the state,” said Greg LaBarge, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems. “That uneven spring continues to haunt us this fall.”

The weather pattern during the summer has impacted corn yields. 

“We got dry in some areas going into the mid-season, and that took the top yield off in those areas,” LaBarge said. 

Many other parts of the state, though, are experiencing record or near-record corn yields. In many cases, spring conditions were nearly ideal and timely rains set up corn for success. Insect and corn disease pressure was relatively low in 2021 as well. 

“Insects were practically non-existent until we had the armyworms move in this year,” LaBarge said. “Disease pressure was also relatively low until later in the season. That is when we saw the tar spot move in.” 

Tar spot is a relatively new disease to Ohio. It was first confirmed in the United States in 2015 in Northwest Indiana. 

“Tar spot tends to occur later in the growing season when our traditional fungicide applications may not be as effective. This past July was when tar spot findings were first reported in Ohio for this year,” LaBarge said. “The pathogen that causes tar spot overwinters on infested corn residue on the soil surface. It is thought that high relative humidity and prolonged leaf wetness favor the disease development. Residue management, rotation, and avoiding susceptible hybrids may reduce tar spot development and severity. Some fungicides may also reduce tar spot. Little data exists regarding application timing for efficacy and economic response.”

Other corn diseases that are of perennial concern were present in Ohio’s field this year as well and did lead to some stalk rot concerns, though not generally widespread.

“This year, the combined effects of prevalent diseases such as northern corn leaf blight, southern rust, tar spot, and gray leaf spot may negatively affect stalk quality. However, the extent of the problem will depend on when these diseases develop and how badly the upper leaves of the plant are damaged,” said Pierce Paul, Ohio State University plant pathologist in a recent CORN Newsletter. “When leaves above the ear are severely damaged well before grain-fill is complete, the plants often translocate sugars from the stalk to fill grain, causing them to become weak and predisposed to fungal infection. A number of fungal pathogens cause stalk rot, but the three most important in Ohio are Gibberella, Collectotrichum (anthracnose), and Fusarium.”

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