Area farmers struggle with harvest following strange weather

The weather in recent weeks has been strange and difficult for area farmers. Brisk September days. Warm, humid October nights. Drought — then almost constant rain.

The temperature last Sunday afternoon dropped some seven degrees in just one hour.

“Harvest has slowed down significantly in the last 10 days,” said Sam Custer, educator for the Ohio State University Extension in Darke County. “We have had rain events every day for the last ten days. This has brought the soybean harvest to a standstill and greatly slowed down the corn harvest.”

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In Darke County — a rural community of about 52,000 residents and nearly 1,700 farms, according to the U.S Census — Custer estimated that farmers are about 45 percent harvested on soybeans and 15 percent so far for corn.

Darke County has nearly 340,000 acres devoted to farming, according to the Census. That’s more farmland than Miami County (which has more than 184,000 acres devoted to farmland), Montgomery County (over 124,000 acres), Butler (over 146,000 acres) and Warren (over 106,000 acres).

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Strange weather this fall really has been nothing new — at least this year, Custer said.

“The harvest window was going to be long anyway because of the long planting season that was driven by a wet spring,” he said. “Many acres of corn and beans were being either planted or replanted in June.”

An issue with the long harvest will be the “standability” of the crop, he added. Any corn with a weak stalk coming into the harvest because of the spring conditions is very susceptible to weather events. Evening winds have blown some corn over. Wind events in the future will have an effect on the harvestability, he said.

The bottom line? Harvest will be affected, he believes.

“For the harvest that has taken place soybean yields and corn yields across the county I predict will be slightly below average,” he said. “There will be some places that will have very good corn yields.”

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That’s bad news for farmers who are already expected to get low prices for corn and soybeans. Prices are expected to be at $2.80 to $3.60 per bushel for corn and $8.35 to $10.5 per bushel for soybeans.

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress report, issued Oct. 16, indicates just 28 percent of the corn crop is harvested in the nation, but well behind the five-year average of 47 percent at the time.

In Montgomery County, farmers are mostly corn and soybean growers. There are some wheat fields and some hay is grown in the southern part of the county, said Suzanne Wasniak-Mills, agricultural and natural resources educator with the OSU Extension in Montgomery County. But the area around Dayton is mostly corn and soybean country.

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Farmers are harvesting now, she said. “So the devil will be in the details — in the yield monitors.”

A yield monitor is a piece of equipment in most combines, calculating the yield farmers get as grain goes through combine machines, she said.

“Things are just all over the board — you don’t know where they’re at,” Wasniak-Mills said. “It depends on the farm and the rain and the variety.”

Weather has been a difficulty for many farmers, she said. Extended soakings and morning fogs all delayed harvest. Last spring presented its own challenges, she said.

Autumn’s first killing frost will stop crop growth, but that doesn’t worry Wasniak-Mills right now. What farmers need more than anything else is to dry out.

“Every season has its own challenges,” she said.

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