Blogging by the Bushel
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Archive for June, 2011

Anna Kaverman-Mercer Landmark

We all were affected by the cool, soggy and overall poor spring conditions in one way or another, but farmers by far were the most impacted. This year Ohio farmers stand to lose close to $1 billion in income from late planting of corn and soybeans. Barry Ward, a production business management leader with Ohio State University Extension, roughly figured that lower yields due to late planting could cost corn growers $720 million and soybean growers $260 million in gross income. These estimates were based on the acres of crop that farmers reported in March that they expected to plant, and on the lower yields because of late planting.

Like any assumption, these numbers are just estimates and ball park figures. They are based on assumptions made at a certain point of time. Losses may dwindle but they also could grow as well. The June 30th crop report will give us more insight. The weather has broke finally after storm after storm and torrential rains and many Ohio farmers were able to get into their fields and finish planting. However, this did not come with a price since by the time this happened the calendar had flipped to June and many corn acres were either sacrificed to preventative plant or switched to soybeans.

What we fail to recognize is that the losses are being felt by the entire agricultural sector on a multiplier basis, including substantial losses in fruit and vegetable production, and in the greenhouse and bedding plant industry.  Quantity and quality losses in winter wheat are starting to surface as well and we push into mid June.  Pasture and hay are also suffering losses in both quantity and quality. Poorer feed means less feed efficiency and that will translate into livestock losses as well. Less income means that farmers have fewer dollars to spend on inputs and capital expenses, such as equipment and buildings. It also means less disposable income to make purchases that would help spur the local economy.

The one bright spot is that Ohio farmers in general have had four consecutive good years leading up to 2011. Now I am not saying these years didn’t come without problems, but they were still decent by all stretches. The true economic impact of the late planting won’t be known until this fall. In the mean time the weather from now until harvest will determine the impact on yield and income. The one thing that is certain is that this planting delay and the spring of 2011 will definitely have an impact on this year’s bottom line.

Anna Kaverman-Mercer Landmark

  In my previous blog post it was noted that by the end of May, planting delays may result in yield losses as high as 2 bushels per acre per day but that the impact of late planting on yield can be highly variable. Information on the performance of corn planted in June is limited since this year will be the first time in 15 years that more than 10% of the corn will be planted in June. When planting is delayed beyond June 1, many grain producers switch to soybean because it has generally been regarded as more profitable than late-planted corn. This article was published in the Ohio C.O.R.N. Newsletter and discusses what we can expect from June planted corn and may help clear up some lingering questions that you may have. The article can be found at Early-to-mid June Corn Plantings: Yield Expectations — Agronomic Crops Network.

What can we expect from corn planted for grain in June? Since 2005 we have conducted field studies to compare the agronomic performance of corn planted on “normal” Ohio planting dates in late April and early May with that of corn planted on dates in early-to-mid June. These planting date studies also included hybrid maturity, nitrogen, seeding rate and foliar fungicide treatments but for the purpose of this discussion we will focus on planting date effects. The Ohio Corn Marketing Program provided funds to initiate this research. The studies were performed at OARDC-OSU research farms in southwest, northwest, and northeast Ohio. The hybrids used over this six year period varied depending on experiment but have usually contained transgenic Bt corn borer and rootworm resistance and glyphosate and/or glufosinate herbicide resistance.

Figure 1 summarizes results of 17 experiments in which yields of normal and June planting dates were compared (SC-South Charleston; NW – Northwest; WO-Wooster). Yields of corn planted on June planting dates, averaged across site years, were about 14% less than corn planted on normal planting dates. Yields were greater for corn planted on normal planting dates compared with June dates for 15 site years. However, there was considerable variation in yield differences.

Yield losses ranged from -6% to -43%. Yields were greater for corn planted on June planting dates compared with the normal dates for two site years, WO2005 (+13%) and NW2007 (+3%). The major yield loss for June planted corn at SC2008 (-43%) could be attributed in part to severe stalk lodging caused by strong winds associated with the remnants of  Hurricane Ike ( Sept 14, 2008).  The yield advantage of June planted corn over normal planted corn at Wooster in 2005 could be related to timely, above average rainfall in August (associated with the remnants of Hurricane Katrina). The late planted corn benefited more than the early planted corn from this greater rainfall because it occurred earlier during grain fill in the late planted corn than for the earlier planted corn.

At the NW2007 site, corn planted on the normal date yielded less than June planted corn because it was more severely stressed by early-mid season water deficits than the late planted corn. These results are consistent with what has been noted in previous articles on effects of plantings delays, i.e. grain yields of corn planted as late as early June are strongly influenced by growing conditions during grain fill in August and early September.

Corn planted on late planting dates is often associated with greater stalk lodging than corn planted on normal dates. In this assessment of normal vs. early June planting date effects, % stalk lodging was much greater for June plantings at three site years (2% vs. 81% at SC2006; 16% vs. 52% at WO2006; 62% vs. 17% at SC2008); differences were generally negligible for the other sites. Grain moisture content at harvest for corn planted in early -mid June, averaged across site years, was about 5 to 6 percentage points greater than corn planted on normal planting dates.

It’s important to keep in mind that these comparisons of normal and late planting dates were generally conducted at locations with a history of high yield potential. The fields were characterized by soil fertility levels within the optimal range for corn production and uniform tile drainage. These are conditions which may not always typify late planted on-farm fields.

Figure 1.  Grain yields of corn planted on “normal” Ohio planting dates in April/May vs. early-mid June dates, OSU studies, 2005-2010.