Most Ohio farmers behind schedule on planting

Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch

May 9, 2014

Despite a cold and wet spring that has put his planting of corn and soybeans behind schedule, David Black is not ready to panic.

"I'd like to be planting now, but it's just too dang wet. ... The ground is kind of cold," Black said on Wednesday of the 2,400 acres he farms in Franklin and Pickaway counties.

Still, Black remembers last year's slow start and how that turned out.

"We've got plenty of time," he said. "Last year, we planted until the middle of May, corn and beans, and we had fantastic crops."

Black isn't the only farmer behind schedule.

Through Sunday, only 8 percent of the corn had been planted in Ohio, down from the five-year average of 25 percent, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Only 3 percent of soybeans had been planted, below the five-year average of 12 percent.

Even so, planting progress is about where it was last year at this time.

"Certainly, farmers are anxious, but they are far from panicking," said Joe Cornely, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. "Farmers will tell you that the earlier start you get to the cropping season, the better."

The rule of thumb is that farmers like to have corn planted by mid-May, followed quickly by beans, he said.

"Clearly, that's not going to happen this year," he said. "What we're learning is that while the planting date is extremely important, it's not make-or-break like it used to be."

Black said he hopes to begin planting today. If all goes well, he can finish in 10 days to two weeks.

Planting at the optimum time is important to producing a robust crop. If the weather stays warm and dry, as it has been the past few days, farmers can make up for lost time quickly with today's powerful farming equipment and technology, experts say.

With good conditions, farmers might be able to get as much as half of the state's corn crop planted in a week or so, said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension corn specialist.

"Depending on where he is, if a farmer doesn't have a single seed of corn in the ground, he's probably worried," he said.

In 2011, not all of the corn was planted until June 1, but favorable weather the rest of the season led to a good crop, he said.

As is often the case in Ohio, conditions vary considerably across the state.

Thomison said farmers in some western parts of the state finished planting corn two weeks ago.

Gary Skinner, who farms corn and soybeans in Delaware and Knox counties, said on Wednesday that he is only a few days behind his planting schedule.

"It's pretty good. I started out four days later than normal. The weather is good so far," he said.

He said the temperature and moisture of his fields have been adequate. Skinner said the big problem from the winter has been soil erosion.

While farmers are eager to get going, planting before the fields are ready isn't wise, either, Thomison said.

"Farmers are hesitant to mud the corn. They can do a lot of harm to the crops," he said. "They like to let the fields dry out."