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August 27, 2007

 

Heavy rains help failing corn, soybean crops in US' Ohio
 

 

This week's heavy rains helped Ohio's corn and soybean farmers recover from a summer-long drought that had endangered much of their crop, although modest losses are still expected for some crops.

 

The rainfall, reaching over 9 inches in some parts of north-east Ohio, gave the state's parched corn fields enough water to last until harvest time, said Peter Thomison, an agronomist specialising in corn with Ohio State University Extension.

 

"We've gone from famine to feast," Thomison said.

 

The rain all but saved the state's soybean crop after months of hot, dry weather threatened to reduce some soybean fields' yield to next to nothing, said Jim Beuerlein of the Ohio State University Extension. Now those fields will probably produce up to two-thirds the normal amount.

 

Farmers are not predicting a bumper soybean crop by any means, but the average yield might be as much as 40 bushels an acre, slightly less than last year, Beuerlein said.

 

Despite the drought conditions and flooding, Ohio farmers are still expected to harvest a record 541 million bushels of corn, according to the most recent estimates from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Increases in the demand for livestock and ethanol production means US farmers will likely produce the largest corn crop in history, the service said.

 

Some losses from drought are still expected.

 

Cornfields that experienced intensely dry or prolonged drought conditions will probably yield about 20 to 30 percent less than usual, Thomison said.

 

But losses to the crop, especially with the plants weakened and nitrogen-deficient from the dry soil, would have been much greater without the rainfall this week, he added.

 

Slightly more than a quarter of Ohio's corn crop was rated in "poor" or "very poor" condition Monday (Aug 27), compared with 8 percent at this time last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

 

Almost 22 percent of the state's soybean crop was rated "poor" or "very poor," compared with last year's 11 percent, the service said. Soybean production is expected to be 175 million bushels, a 19 percent decrease from last year.

 

Prolonged wet conditions are not favourable to either crop, however.

 

Corn plants left standing in flooded fields are more susceptible to rot, mildew and disease, Thomison said. But flood problems will likely be localised to just a few areas, not throughout the state, he said.

 

Beuerlein predicted that the total loss due to flooded soybean fields will represent no more than 1 percent of the state's soybean crop.

 

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