Friday morning’s weather appropriately set the stage for the Farmers’ Breakfast: Crop Weather Outlook talk at the Beck’s Hybrids building in London. Heavy winds and rain pummeled the area around the agriculture facility which welcomed two guest speakers for the 9 a.m. event. The breakfast was sponsored by the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Jim Noel, Service Coordination Hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Ohio River Forecast Center, started the morning with a presentation on weather patterns across the central portion of the United States, also emphasizing the effects on Ohio corn and soybean farmers.
“In the state of Ohio, we were wetter than normal this past winter,” Noel said. “Out of 123 years of record, you see the state of Ohio is 120, that means the third warmest year on record.” The previous warmest year was 2012, a year which was comparatively drier than this year. In fact, Ohio is the wettest and warmest in the whole Corn-Soybean Belt, a regional expanse that includes Ohio in the east and extends west to include states as far north as the Dakotas and as far south as Texas. Although the wet weather does put a damper on farming conditions, Noel pointed out, “It’s extremely wet, but it’s much worse in the west.” The dangerously dry conditions of the middle part of the U.S. are good indicators of the volatility of weather conditions in general.
One focus of Noel’s talk was to emphasize the difficulty in precise predictability and that, in many cases, judging the weather is a game of probabilities. “One area to watch is the Pacific Ocean along the Equator,” he said. Over the next several months, “We do not expect significant events in the Pacific Ocean.” The expectation of relatively quiet ocean activities is also a good indicator of the possible calmness with regard to weather patterns on the U.S. mainland.
Looking forward, Noel said they are tracking a high probability of a warmer-than-normal fall and winter for Ohio, which can often mean possible bad news for the planting season. The good news, however, would be if crops do well throughout the summer, the first frosts of fall will be well past their usual time.
The second speaker at the breakfast was Dr. Pierce Paul, an associate professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Plant Pathology and based at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. His presentation focused on the presence and management of plant diseases, specifically Gibberella Ear Rots and Vomitoxin.
Dr. Paul’s talk echoed some of Noel’s points with regard to probability and weather. With Ohio’s weather being warmer and wetter, the likelihood of diseases is higher in the corn plants. “Our studies show Ear Rot increasing over the last few years, mostly caused by weather conditions,” Dr. Paul said. The higher the amount of wetness, the higher the risk is and Ohio is right at the level where that is an issue.
“One difficulty is there isn’t a good way to test,” said Dr. Paul. In most cases when the presence of a disease is suspected, the only way to tell is to visually inspect the grains. There is work being done on a forecasting tool to better predict the appearance of the diseases, but in the meantime, the best prevention is using hybrid varieties of what is being planted and more close-quarters fungicide spraying.
“Crop rotation and tillage are not as effective in treatment because of the fungus spores’ ability to travel,” Dr. Paul said. Scientists are currently looking at drop-nozzle spraying to test whether or not that is more effective than traditional aerial sprays.
It’s an unfortunate situation of risk versus yield, which despite advancements in technology, has always come down to the choice of the farmer.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.