By Ed Lentz

Finally, it is official. Hancock County soybean producers had an excellent year in 2018, breaking county records for yield, acres planted, and total production.

The official U.S. Department of Agriculture report was released a few weeks ago after being delayed a month by the government shutdown.

The report contains crops yields for each county, which are estimated from farmer surveys and other sources by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Even though these are estimated numbers, government and industry will use these values for historical records, and more importantly, government farm payments will be based on these values.

Hancock County farmers knew they had a good soybean crop, but were not sure how good it was across the county. However, they knew that timely rains in August generally produce high-yielding beans.

Producers consider it a great soybean crop when the county average breaks 50 bushels per acre. In 2018, producers shattered that number by reaching a county record average of 61.3 bushels per acre. That broke the previous record of 54.2 bushels, set in 2014.

County soybean yields also averaged 11.6 bushels more than the 10-year average.

It was a good year for soybeans in most Ohio counties. Ohio set a new state record average yield at 58 bushels.

Hancock County farmers planted more soybean acres in 2018 than any other year, breaking a record set in 2017. County farmers planted 143,500 acres last year, 3,500 more than in 2017.

The increased acreage ensured that Hancock would be one of top 10 producing soybean counties for Ohio. Hancock soybean production in 2018 was 8.774 million bushels — about 2 million more than 2017.

Hancock County ranked fourth in the state for soybean production last year, for the second year in a row.

Other counties in the area also did well in state rankings: Wood (second), Putnam (third), Seneca (sixth), Hardin (eighth) and Wyandot (18th).

Darke County ranked first in the state with 9.313 million bushels.

Ohio also had a record-breaking corn yield average of 187 bushels per acre last year, which broke the previous record of 177 bushels.

Corn yields were good last year in Hancock County, but not as good as the state average or the county record of 193.3 bushels set in 2014.

Hancock County corn averaged 183.9 bushels per acre — 3.1 bushels less than the state average, but 18.6 bushels better than the 10-year county average and 13.9 bushels better than 2017.

Hancock County corn producers have seen two years in a row of respectable corn yields.

County corn production in 2018, yield times the harvested acres, was 16 million bushels — 2.4 million bushels more than 2017.

Hancock County’s ranking in corn production compared to other Ohio counties remained the same in 2018 — 11th place. It is the fourth year in a row that Hancock was not in the top 10 corn-producing counties of Ohio.

Of the surrounding counties, Hardin (fourth), Wood (sixth) and Seneca (ninth) were among the top 10 producing counties in the state. Putnam and Wyandot counties ranked 14th and 17th, respectively.

Darke County was first with production of 24.3 million bushels.

Wheat yields were good in the area last year, but less than the record set in 2016. Hancock County average wheat yield was 83.1 bushels per acre, 4.1 bushels more than the previous year. County wheat yields were 5.1 bushels better than the state average yield of 78.

Hancock wheat production was 1.545 million bushels, 68,000 more bushels than 2017. Hancock still ranks in the top 10 Ohio wheat-producing counties, maintaining the sixth spot for the third year in a row.

Putnam and Wood counties were the top two wheat-producing counties in the state. Seneca was fifth.

Hancock County farmers planted 20,200 acres to wheat for the 2017-18 crop year, but only harvested 18,600 acres. Acres planted were 1,100 more than the 2016-2017 crop year, when planted wheat acres dropped below 20,000 for the first time in the county.

Wheat acres accounted for about 8% of the planted acres of grain crops in Hancock County. Soybeans had the most acres at 58%, followed by corn at 34%. The percentage of each crop planted in the county was basically the same for 2017 and 2018.

Most farmers were blessed with good crop yields this past year. They needed all the extra bushels to make up for low grain prices. Grain prices have been low to sluggish for the past five years and are projected to stay low this year, unless an unexpected grain shortage occurs in the world.

Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for the Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at lentz.38@osu.edu.

Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.

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