KENTON — Corn and soybean fields in this part of Ohio are behind schedule as many farmers here were forced to plant late, the result of an atypically wet spring that left fields too saturated for fieldwork for much of the planting season.
Now, a new problem has surfaced: There’s not enough rain.
Call it the life of a farmer.
“Some of this corn is really starting to be stressed because we need rain,” said Mark Badertscher, an agricultural and natural resources educator for the OSU Extension in Hardin County.
“It’s at a point where some of the fields are tasseling – where it’s entering the reproductive stage and needs to pollinate,” he said. “If it’s hot and dry, we probably won’t have good pollination.”
Pollination problems could hurt yields. And Badertscher said many fields in this area are already behind or uneven.
An early frost could hurt late planted corn too, as stalks may not fully mature.
And then there’s the risk of high-moisture corn, which Badertscher said costs farmers more money as they are forced to dry the grain themselves or get docked by grain elevators.
In a normal year, farmers here plant an average of 80,000 acres of corn and 110,000 acres of soybeans. But Badertscher estimates that up to one-third to one-half of the county’s corn and soybean crop were never planted.
“Most of these acres that didn’t get planted are covered by crop insurance,” he said. Those who weren’t covered were more likely to risk planting late.
Clint Schroeder, a fellow agricultural and natural resources educator for the OSU Extension in Allen County, suggested up to 10,000 acres of soybeans were planted in the last week of June.
“At that point, people thought it was too late to plant any sort of corn,” he said. “But the (week of) June 25, they were able to get a lot of soybeans in.”
Some farmers skipped planting corn altogether, opting for a combination of prevent planting crop insurance claims and replacing corn acres with soybeans.
Schroeder estimates up to 40% of the county’s corn acreage and 10% of soybean acreage went unplanted this year. Crop conditions at this point are “all over the board.”
Much like Hardin County, pollination is now a concern as fields have been dry and temperatures have been a bit higher than usual.
“We could use some moisture,” Schroeder said. “This crop was stressed from the get go, planted under conditions that weren’t ideal.”
Northwest Ohio farmers are now waiting to see whether they qualify for federal disaster assistance.
Already the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared Auglaize and four other northwest Ohio counties as natural disaster areas, allowing farmers in those counties who lost crops or were unable to plant because of heavy rains that started last November to apply for low-interest emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency.
Farmers in neighboring counties – including those in Allen, Hancock, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Putnam, Shelby and Van Wert – will also be eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency disaster loans to replace farm equipment or livestock, or refinance debts.
“That could provide a little relief on payments,” said Badertscher, who pointed to the long list of costs like land or machinery payments that farmers still face even when a crop is never planted. “The money’s going to have to come from somewhere.”
In a similar motion, the U.S. Small Business Administration on Friday announced that small businesses and agricultural cooperatives affected by the flooding on Nov. 11, 2018, in 21 counties, along with another nine counties that experienced heavy rains between March 1 and June 6.
And the Ohio Treasurer’s office extended the deadline for interest rate reductions through the state’s Ag-Link program.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456