Roy Norman agrees that, after last year’s disastrous start to the corn season, this year’s conditions can only be described as better.
And while this summer’s long chain of baking-hot days has yet to significantly damage Fulton County cornfields the need for rain has become a concern.
“Some parts of the county are really dry, and other parts are doing pretty well. It’s pretty much hit and miss,” said Norman, the senior organization director for the local Four County Farm Bureau.
The problem has been variable rainfall across the area that will drench some fields but barely touch others. It’s a frustration for farmers, who in 2019 faced constant deluges of precipitation that left some unable to plant for the season and constantly flooded fields for those who got corn in the ground.
“We could use more consistent rainfall and slightly cooler weather,” Norman said. “From the roadside it looks good. But we would like to see a good inch of rain per week.”
The problem with variable rain is that it makes all the difference when the corn pollinates and starts to make ears, he said. The next three weeks will determine in which direction corn crops are headed, he added.
“With the high heat, if you didn’t get the rain it just amplifies the effect,” Norman said.
There have also been problems with corn fungus and worms, “but that’s normal for this time of year. You always got to be on the lookout for that kind of damage,” he said.
Though it’s too early to predict how the season will proceed, Norman said he’s leaning toward the side of good yields. Either way, this season can’t be viewed equally with last season, he said.
“We had so much rain, and so many acres didn’t get planted. It’s not really a comparable year,” he said. Surprisingly, despite the soaking weather, some corn fields rebounded last year and produced average yields.
Metamora farmer Keith Truckor, who farms 700 acres of corn at several locations in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, said variable rainfall has been dramatic this year. Some of his fields have received a good amount, while others not nearly as much.
Because it’s currently pollination time for corn, precipitation has become crucial for good yields.
“If we get ample rainfall and cool temperatures the crops will do well,” Truckor said. “We’ll know the results in about three weeks.”
Continual hot weather would decrease the yield on a per-acre basis, he said. And right now “yields are all over the board,” Truckor said, noting that, at this point in the current season, he could see reaping between 100-200 bushels per acre.
“We’ve been challenged (by weather) three years in a row. It’s just too early to tell,” he said.
Statewide, the quality of the corn crop is fair to good, said Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. Unfortunately, the good to excellent range is preferred, he said.
As of Monday, only 6% of Ohio’s corn meets an excellent rating. Nicholson said the season looks to be in the “middle of the road” category. In fact, Ohio’s crops presently lag behind those in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois.
“It all has to do with where the rains hit,” he added. “One week of rain could change that. Our weather patterns right now are spotty. It’s going to be kind of the luck of the draw.”
Heat prior to corn pollination is ideal and allows corn to thrive, Nicholson said. “But when it gets to pollination…that’s not ideal weather. We’re going to need some rain to counteract that dry heat.”
Still, the saying “Never say never” applies well to corn, he said. Genetics placed into the seed and modern technology “make this a plant that rebounds amazingly well today. Now it can take some of this stress. It leaves us a little more optimistic. But everyone’s mood would be better if we got a little rain.”
Nicholson said every farmer knows that part of the livelihood is a gamble, but he’s betting the state’s corn crops can still come through by season’s end.
“We’re going to be a low average, but I’d say it’s not going to be a devastating loss,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.