This year's planting-estimate numbers released by the USDA June 30 show the dynamic capabilities of Ohio farmers. It also demonstrates the need for modern farming technology to get crops in the ground in record time.
Most Ohio farmers were delayed in planting due to an extremely wet spring – one of the wettest springs in history – and had the numbers of days that they could plant compressed to a week in some cases.
Yet, the USDA estimates that farmers planted more corn this year than last year, with figures showing farmers putting 3.5 million acres of corn in the ground in 2011, an increase from the previous year's 3.45 million planted corn acres.
"Thirty years ago this would not have been an option," says Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers President and Henry County farmer Mark Wachtman. "Technology, such as using GPS to guide planting, allows us to plant quickly and do it right the first time. Also, biotech seeds make it possible to have a shorter growing season during adverse weather conditions."
Dwayne Siekman, OCWGA CEO, reinforces that the USDA figures are still estimates.
"These are rough estimates from the US Department of Agriculture," says Siekman. "But this year has shown the tenacity of Ohio farmers to work 'round the clock to get the job done to provide corn for food, feed and fuel."
While more acres have been estimated as planted, Ohio farmers are counting on good growing weather this summer to bring quality yields; Ohio yields are generally more than the nation's overall average, with 165 bushels per acre. Ideal growing weather this summer is warm temperatures with an adequate amount of rain.
The USDA estimates that Ohio farmers planted 890,000 wheat acres this season, compared to 780,000 wheat acres planted in the 2010 growing season. However, quality issues are at stake due to the large amount of rain this spring.
"This has not been the best season for wheat," says Pierce Paul, Ohio State Extension specialist and plant pathologist.
Farmers faced everything from flooded wheat fields and disease issues, to prevented spring nitrogen applications because of the severity of conditions, said Paul. Because of such conditions, yield estimates throughout the state range from as minimal as 25 bushels per acre to as much as 90 bushels per acre.
"Farmers will know soon what sort of losses they might face," says Siekman. "Overall, though, the ability to plant corn in such a short time frame and stave off more wheat disease in bad growing conditions is one for the history books."