Local farmers depend on weather

Think about what it would be like if your living depended on what the weather deals to you. Local farmers are at that point right now. They have been waiting for the weather to warm up and get drier so they can get their corn, soybeans and a few oats planted.

Last year, estimates from the Ohio Agricultural Statistical Service indicated there were 23,500 acres of corn planted in Trumbull County. Ashtabula County was listed with 27,500 acres planted . It didn’t list any for Geauga County, which is much smaller and more urban.

Soybeans have become a much more popular crop in this area. Estimates were that 27,000 acres were planted in Trumbull County last year and 29,000 acres in Ashtabula. Geauga County was listed with 4,000 acres.

All these figures tell us that there is a lot of work to be done on local farms yet this spring. It is starting to get late to get all this work done and crops in the ground. For many farmers other jobs such as making hay start in mid to late May, conflicting with getting the last of the corn and beans planted.

I don’t know about you but I am still shivering from last winter’s long, very cold winter. Maybe local farmers are the same way as they wait for warmer, drier weather.

Statistics also don’t tell the real story about what is involved in getting the corn and soybeans in the ground. The soil has to be made ready to accept the seed. Decisions have to be made about the seed to be planted. Actual planting has become a precise operation to make sure the seed is at the right depth and in the right place related to fertilizer application.

Distance between rows and number of seed planted in each acre are other decisions and affect the kind of planter being used. Many farmers have found, and research supports this, that they can increase yields by planting more seeds on each acre. This also says that the right fertilizer must be applied.

Because soybean prices have been better than corn this past year, predictions were that some local farmers might shift from corn to beans this year. In talking with some seed suppliers, they don’t think there will be a huge shift, maybe five to 10 percent.

When the weather does break, farmers will be working long hours, some day and night to get their crops in the ground. They know from experience that the “window” for planting can be very short sometimes and they need to get the seeds planted.

So if you come up on tractors with planters moving from field to field, be patient with them and give them some room. They are growing your dinner.

Information from the National Corn Growers says that in that little kernel of yellow dent corn, there is 62 percent starch, about four percent corn oil, 15 percent moisture and 19 percent protein and fiber. Also the kernel has the tiny little embryo that allows the seed to grow if planted.

About 40 percent of the corn raised in the United States is used for livestock feed, which is turned into food for us. Nearly 31 percent is made into ethanol and the rest made into corn syrup, cereals and other uses. Many different products are made from corn including plastics, adhesives, clothing and more.

It is interesting to note, according to the Corn Growers Association, that back in 1908 Henry Ford designed the first Model T to run on pure ethanol.

Locally, all our grain and dairy farms are family farms. Nationally 95 percent of the grain farms are family farms. Also back in 1960 the average farmer fed 26 people, while today that number is 155 people a remarkable improvement and a tribute to today’s farmers as well as agricultural research and technology.

Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and an independent agricultural writer.