This year’s participants on the north leg of the Ohio Crop Tour were Mike Theil, Wyandot County farmer; Matt Burkholder, Allen County farmer; Lawrence Onweller, Fulton County farmer; Dusty Sonnenberg, Ohio Field Leader/Ohio Ag Net; and Osler Ortez, Ohio State University Extension.

More than counting kernels

By Matt Reese

Of course, the outward goals of the 2023 Ohio Crop Tour are to get an idea of what is actually out there in the corn and soybean fields around the state of Ohio in terms of yields, pests and diseases. And, in general we have accomplished just that in the 11 years since we started the effort. We have been quite a bit off on the final yield a couple of times, but we generally get within a handful of bushels of the final USDA average yield numbers for Ohio released in January. We also typically succeed in getting a good handle on pest issues and statewide trends in crop development and challenges. So, in terms of the obvious goals of the Crop Tour, I think we do pretty well, maybe an A- or a B+ most of the time.

But, like most everything else we do, the Crop Tour is not really about corn yields, Japanese beetles or leaf disease, it is about people. First, we could not do what we do without the wonderful group of anonymous farmers who host us on their farms, allow us to do yield checks and share pertinent information about their crops. And second, I cannot emphasize enough how fortunate we are, year in and year out, to get fantastic groups of farmers and agronomists to spend a couple of days riding around with Dusty and I traipsing through Ohio’s crop fields. We have been blessed to get to ride around with some of the very best over the last 11 years, all of whom have given up some of their valuable time to travel Ohio’s backroads looking at corn and soybeans.

This year’s participants on the south leg of the Ohio Crop Tour were Eric Tipton, Fayette County farmer; Jon Everett, Shelby County farmer; Greg LaBarge, Ohio State University Extension; Don Jackson, Preble County farmer; and Matt Reese.

Those long hours traveling together in a vehicle always yield insights into the backgrounds and personalities of fellow crop tour participants. For instance, this year I learned about who enjoys trips to the beach and who doesn’t (I’m definitely among the latter), the beverage of choice in a certain western Ohio farm shop is Diet Mountain Dew, and several tales of farm technology successes and failures. Of course, there are usually several semi-intense agronomic arguments that can be entertaining to listen in on — you wouldn’t believe how passionate agronomists can get about nitrogen rates, soil testing and cation exchange capacity.

There is also plenty of opportunity to swap stories about families, local farm lore and share tales of crop tours past. Younger farmers get to learn from those more experienced. Agronomists and farmers share ideas, successes and failures. Participants get to see first-hand what is working in some fields and maybe not working in others. We also eat pretty well too, just ask any 2023 Crop Tour participant about Grandma Ethel’s homemade doughnuts. Wow!

I’d be remiss if I did not also thank the Sullivan family and Circle S Farms for hosting us for dinner one night and the Extension educators who scouted fields to submit to us as well in recent years. All in all, the 2023 Crop Tour was another really great experience for me, personally, and hopefully everyone else involved in counting the kernels and so much more.

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