By JIM MAURER
A gentle rain this week may help along the recently planted corn and soybeans, as the crops begin to emerge.
Planting was “not as fast as other years,” said Ed Lentz, agriculture and natural resources educator for Ohio State University Extension, Hancock County. Generally, planting should be done by May 10 to provide sufficient growing days before the killing frost in the fall. Often, some farmers will be finished in April.
But soil conditions, soil temperature and below seasonal temperatures set planting behind this year.
The Great Lakes stayed frozen longer because the colder winter temperatures and northwest winds “kept things cool,” he said.
A minimum soil temperature for planting is 50 degrees, Lentz said, and it wasn’t until about the last week of May, the soil finally reached the optimum planting temperature of 60 degrees.
The corn plant is better suited to thrive in the warmer climate of Mexico and southern areas, but farmers have genetically modified the tropical corn plant to survive the weather conditions in the northern latitudes, he said. Technology has improved to allow better production and protection of the seeds.
The colder temperatures which continued into the spring kept moisture in the fields, too, so farmers had to wait for drier conditions.
As a result, while some corn was planted in April, most was done in early to mid-May. A lot of soybeans were planted the last week of May.
The size of the equipment helped farmers speed up the planting process, he said, as some planters can cover 24 rows in a pass.
Some farmers will “work the ground” to reduce weeds, Lentz said, and the bare ground also dries more quickly. Corn is generally planted in those fields.
No-till ground tends to stay wetter longer as field debris retains the moisture. Those fields are usually planted in soybeans.
“We’re in a good position on crops,” he said. “The drier spring left soil cold, but not waterlogged.”
A drier spring provides better chance for good crops at harvest, he said. It creates deeper roots, and when the summer is dry the roots can tap into water.
But if the spring is wet, the plant creates shallow roots, which are not established, and have to work harder to get down to the water.
For soybeans, if it is too dry, it takes more moisture for the plant to germinate and emerge.
Meanwhile, the soft, red winter wheat crop, planted last year for harvest this summer, was late with “green up,” he said. Usually it happens in early March, but this year it was about a month later, the week of April 6, because of the colder temperatures. The plant also was shorter because of the cold temperatures.
However, harvest is still on schedule for the end of June or early July, he said.
Rain and warm temperatures when wheat is flowering, which happened near the end of May, can cause head blight or head scab, a fungus which can produce mycotoxins, chemicals which are toxic to humans and livestock. Head scab has not been a problem this year.
A wheat crop with too much disease causes significant yield loss and reduced grain quality. The grain elevator will not accept the crop, either. If the disease percentage is low, the crop will be mixed with better quality wheat.
Northwestern Ohio is the primary section of the state for growing soft, red winter wheat used to make cookies, cakes, donuts and pastries.
This year it “is one of the better places in the state” for crop start-up as the growing season began with no heavy rains like the southern part of the state, he said. The area of the state is generally along Interstate 75 from Bluffton north to the state line.
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