Water in Farm Fields 2021

Water sits in a bean field along Devil's Hole Road near Luckey.

The corn is tall and the wheat harvest has been good because of favorable weather that included plenty of rain. But it could be too much of a good thing.

Bowling Green recorded more than 2.65 inches of rain between June 25 and July 10. Average July precipitation is 3.58 inches, making it a wet growing season.

A check of standing water at the Wood County Soil and Water District found very little standing water remaining around the county on Wednesday, but heavy rainfall expected through today (see page 2 for forecast).

“Soybeans are hurt pretty bad right now. They’re pretty yellow in color. There’s actually getting to be some disease and death that’s beginning to occur in the lower lying wet areas that just haven’t been able to dry out in the last couple of weeks,” said Jeremy Gerwin, who farms on the east side of Wood County, in the Pemberville area. He is also a technician for the soil and water district.

Gerwin farms corn, soybeans and wheat. Wheat harvesting began in Wood County around the July 4th weekend.

Initially, the rain was a blessing.

“We were able to get our wheat harvested, at least,” Gerwin said. “The corn seems to be managing the moisture so far. It’s still a good sign of healthy corn when it’s a deep green color, and we have that now. I have a feeling we are going to see some signs of the wet weather if it continues. The corn will start yellowing and that’s a sign the wet weather is starting to hurt it.”

Gerwin finished harvesting it on Saturday. While rain during the harvesting affected the process, it was still more than Gerwin had done in his 14 years of farming.

“My dad and uncle are both full time farmers, they’ve farmed for 40-plus years. For me personally, it’s the best wheat I’ve ever grown. I’d call ours a record wheat harvest as well. Yield was awesome,” Gerwin said. “When wheat is ripe, if you get rain during that, it can hurt the weight of the wheat and if it’s a hard rain it can knock the seed right out of the head. Luckily I didn’t notice any of that on the ground, but it did hurt the test weight.”

Heavy and intense rains have fallen. There was 0.96 inches of rain on June 25. There was also 0.55 inches of rain on June 27 that fell in less than 30 minutes.

“Still, in my 14 years as an active farmer it was the best we’ve ever grown,” Gerwin said.

He said a normal yield is 80-85 bushels per acre. This year he was in the 90-100 bushel per acre range.

“We were about 10 bushels per acre acre above (average),” Gerwin said.

He thinks soybeans still have potential.

“Soybeans are hurting far worse than the corn is,” Gerwin said. “We need to get dried out here, or they are going to take a turn for the worse.

“Things are really resilient. The genetics have come a long ways, with corn, soybeans and wheat. Things could turn around and they could all still to do well, but I’d say the next few weeks are pretty critical in getting a better weather pattern to allow them to get healthy again.”

The same weather issue holds for corn, but it has not yet been damaged on Gerwin’s land.

The old saying about corn needing to “knee high by the 4th of July” is not really accurate, according to Gerwin, because it’s now planted earlier than it used to be.

“That’s kind of your bare minimum,” Gerwin said.

Regardless of the nervous hitch farmers often feel regarding the elements, Brad Reynolds, a spokesperson for the Ohio Corn and Wheat Association, is equally enthusiastic about the growing season.

“We’ve had good rain, and the heat of summer has obviously helped that corn crop get out of the ground,” he said. “We have a long way to go but it’s got off to a great start. It’s really shot up.”

He said a state report he recently perused showed that over 80% of Ohio’s corn crop has been rated good to excellent, despite a few areas where wetter weather put corn a bit behind.

“We’re off to a really good start,” Reynolds said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has predicted a yield of about 171 bushels of corn per acre if the great weather conditions remain.

The soil and water district also works with farmers on the H2Ohio program, which is attempting to reduce the harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie, through reduction of phosphorus and nitrogen runoff which accelerates that algae growth.

“All indicators show that we’re going to have a smaller algal bloom, as far as the severity goes,” Gerwin said. “That said, heavy rains generally produce more nutrients leaving fields, and municipalities. I guess time will tell.”

He said data trends show a benefit to having rains now, instead of in the fall or early spring.

“Nutrients are already in the fields and the plants have had a chance to uptake them,” Gerwin said. “A lot of the nutrients are put on in the fall or early spring, before planting takes place. The Ag sector has done a lot to incorporate the fertilizer, whether it be through tillage, and there has been more and more adoption of strip-till, where you are placing the nutrients right in the ground, in the fall, and then planting the corn right in that strip, or band, where the nutrients are placed.”

He said that makes for added efficiency, because the nutrients are placed where the plant needs it, resulting in less waste.

(The Fulton County Expositor contributed to this story.)