An unseasonably warm and dry winter has expanded into a warmer than usual spring, allowing farmers across the state to begin their growing seasons at the earliest point many of them have ever planted.
One such farmer is Richard Houk of Newton Falls, who has spent the past couple weeks preparing the ground, planting the seeds and spraying the fields for weeds. And so far, he said both the ground temperature and soil have remained good for planting.
''This is the first time this early we have ever planted a field,'' said Houk, who farms about 250 acres.
Tribune Chronicle / Joshua Flesher
Richard Houck checks the temperature of the ground where he recently planed corn. He said that both the ground temperature and soil are good for planting.
This year's growing season is in complete contradiction to last season, when an exceptionally snowy winter and wet spring pushed farmers to planting their crops later and later.
''It's the polar opposite of last year,'' said Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. ''Last year we were planting in late June, and this year we had some people planting in late March.''
According to a study by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio already has planted 57 percent of its 2011 corn acreage as opposed to last season when only 1 percent had been planted by the same time.
''Ohio had an extremely slow year last year, and this year's been much better,'' explained Anthony Prillaman, with NASS.
Being able to plant earlier in the season changes the type of corn seed used and can have an impact on the final output.
''You can plant a longer season crop," said Houk. "The corn, you can plant a 90-day or 115-day corn. We planted a 108-day corn which is something we normally don't do. The longer season usually yields a little bit more than a shorter season seed."
According to Houk, the seeds should yield about 180 bushels per acre.
''They say the earliest you can get in the better. But we are just now planting and have a long way to go before the crop is harvested,'' he said.
Nicholson said April is normally the month to begin planting, but with warm weather and dry ground, farmers are taking their chances, but others remain skeptical.
''This year, many of the guys are hedging their bets and planting early. Some think this is Ohio and we may have another cold snap,'' he said. ''It's sort of a strategy to put a little in and then wait until the optimal time to put it into the ground.''
''There's always the chance, but the cold weather doesn't bother you unless it's cold and damp at the same time,'' explained Houk. ''You need at least 52 degrees in the ground before a corn seed will germinate.''
Ohio is expected to have additional corn acreage in 2012, according to the USDA, which estimates Ohio having 38,000 acres of corn planted in 2012, an increase of some 400 acres.
''The corn acreage was projected by the USDA to be high,'' Nicholson said.