One of the rainiest Aprils on record and a wet, cool start to May have delayed planting of field crops across Ohio and in surrounding states, but Ohio State University (OSU) experts remain optimistic that corn and soybeans can still go in the ground with little impact on yield potential - and the added bonus that when soil conditions become favorable, both crops can be planted without great risk of cold-weather injury.
"Persistent rains have caused major delays in corn planting this year, with only 1% of corn in Ohio and 2% in Indiana planted as of May 1, which is 60% behind last year and 32% behind the average of the past five years," says OSU Extension agronomist Peter Thomison, citing the latest data from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). "The weather forecast for the next week indicates the likelihood of more rain, so it is probable that many soggy fields will not be drying out soon."
Soybeans also are behind schedule compared with 2010. No soybeans had been planted as of May 1 in Ohio or Indiana, while a year ago 23% in Ohio and 21% in Indiana were already in the ground by May 2.
Despite the unfavorable conditions, Steve Prochaska, an OSU Extension educator in north-central Ohio and member of the university's Agronomic Crops Team, says farmers should not become too anxious or alarmed just yet – but rather should begin planning any changes in crop planting now.
"Even if corn is not planted until May 15, we are still essentially near 100% yield potential," Prochaska says. "If the corn hasn't been planted by about June 1, average yield loss can range from 10% to 20%. Of course, that doesn't include other costs associated with late planting and late maturity, such as higher energy costs for drying and possible harvest loss due to weather issues in the fall months."
In the case of soybeans, studies conducted across the Midwest show that for each day that soybean planting is delayed after May 1, the yield penalty per day can be between 5/8 and 1/4 bu./acre, depending on the year. However, potential yield rewards from early planting should not be used as a reason to plant seed into seedbeds that are too wet, as issues more detrimental than late planting may arise from doing so.