This time of the year, things can be very hectic out there on the farm. It's time to get corn and soybeans in the ground and cooperation from the weather is needed to get those jobs done. Recent rains have been spotty around the area. Some farms are well along with planting and others haven't been able to get much done.
With the uncertainty of the weather and often a short "window" for planting, long days are called for when the weather is right. Fields need to be tilled to provide a good seed bed. In some cases that is plowing and disking the land, and in others no-till is used. No-till cuts down on the number of trips across the fields and provides a seed bed in just the rows where the corn is to be planted. It is a popular way of getting crops in the ground.
Warmer weather is needed to improve the soil temperature. Seeds germinate slowly in cold ground, especially if it is also wet. Many factors go into getting the crops planted on time.
Folks at the Western Reserve Farm Co-op, one of the major suppliers of seed, fertilizer and lime in our area, tell me that a lot of corn is planted in the drier areas of the county. In the northeastern section of Kinsman, Gustavus and Vernon they estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the crop is in the ground. Other areas with wetter soils and more rains are not as far along. Large areas have also been planted across southeastern and southern Ashtabula County.
Supplies of fertilizer are adequate this year, with prices somewhat lower than 2008. This is important because these are uncertain times as far as fall harvest prices are concerned. So farmers like to keep the "input" costs as low as possible.
Western Reserve folks tell me that many farmers are planting the genetically modified seeds this year. They provide advantages in weed and disease control as well as increased yields.
These special seeds are expensive, as much as $350 a unit, but volume discounts can bring the price down. A unit is 80,000 seeds, or enough to plant about two and one-half acres, depending on the seed population that farmer wants. Today's technology means that farming continues to be a real science and requires a lot of thought and management.
Soybeans are usually planted after the corn is in the ground, but a few acres have been planted around the county.
According to the latest figures from the Ohio Agricultural Statistical Service, more than 18,000 acres of corn are usually planted in Trumbull County and 15,700 in Ashtabula County. More than 23,000 acres of soybeans will probably be planted in Trumbull County and more than 24,000 in Ashtabula.
While this is a lot of acres, Trumbull County ranks 47th in Ohio in acres of corn planted and 52nd in soybean acres. Ashtabula County ranks 61st in corn acres and 55th in soybeans. Darke County, over in western Ohio, is the top county for corn production with more than 120,000 acres planted of corn and 144,000 acres of soybeans.
As soon as corn and soybeans are planted in our area, or maybe at the same time, livestock farmers will be cutting hay for the silo or to bale if they can get it dry enough. Given our uncertain weather, making hay is often a tough job. Going into silos or in large plastic wrapped bales the crop can be wetter but still needs some drying. Low moisture is critical to bale as dry hay and prevent molding.
For those who don't farm, you can see there is a lot of science with some luck with the weather that goes into a successful farming operation.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.