Two weeks after the ideal date to plant corn, Delaware County farmers are stuck waiting for the mud to dry.
“The verdict is out: Mother nature can do strange things,” said John Davis, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association chairman and Delaware farmer. “We are at the mercy of the weather.”
Davis said his GarMar farms, off of Dublin Road, had 5.2 inches of rain in April instead of the usual 3.5 inches.
The majority of Delaware farmers have not been able to put seed in the ground; those who have will likely have to replant due to soaking, he said.
Only 1 percent of Ohio’s corn crop has been planted this season, while typically, about 60 percent has been planted by now, according to Ohio State University Extension Educator Rob Leeds.
And the rain in the long-term weather forecast is doing little to ease concerns.
Nevertheless, officials are telling farmers — as well as cost-conscious consumers — that this is not the time to panic.
First, there is still time for a successful yield. Farmers can get 90 to 95 percent of the crop yield if seeds are planted mid-May and the summer has good weather, Davis said.
If farmers must wait until the end of May, various hybrid corn seeds can be used to tolerate the unfavorable weather. As of now, however, Davis said it is still too early to be buying new seeds.
Not until June will farmers be in trouble if seeds are still unsown, said Leeds. Then, the main concern will be the shorter season causing crop moisture — the remedy of which involves the added cost of drier gas. Late-planted corn is also more prone to disease, Leeds added.
While supply and demand could also affect food prices, Davis said that gas prices would be a greater factor.
“The price of food is much more related to energy costs than what happens to a farmer,” said Davis. “The price of gasoline is four-dollars-plus a gallon … it costs more to deliver.”
Delaware’s other top crops, soybeans and winter wheat, are less affected by the recent wet weather than corn. Soybeans can withstand later planting dates without the yield loss, said Davis, whose winter wheat has already grown more than a foot tall.
Of those three crops, soybeans take up the most acreage.
Delaware County harvested 74,100 acres of soybeans last year, averaging a yield of about 52 bushels per acre, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Corn yielded about 164 bushels per acre of the 41,000 harvested acres; winter wheat yielded about 59 bushels per acre of the 7,000 harvested acres.
Davis is optimistic about this year’s yield, advising farmers to prepare themselves to plant as quickly as possible when the time comes.
“Whether that’s trying to hire other folks, get more equipment, or change the way they plant, work to make the inefficiencies minimal,” Davis said.
Beyond that, as Davis said, “trying to predict the crop yield is like trying to predict the weather.”