Thursday, May 31st, 2012
By Betty Lawrence
Strong start
Warm, dry spring allows farmers to plant most crops ahead of schedule
  Tuesday's rainfall was one of those "million dollar rains," Mercer County Farm Service Agency director Chris Gibbs says.
The rain, ranging from 2.1 inches in some areas to 0.4 in others, followed on the heels of a hot, dry period with temperatures in the 90s.
"That rain was a blessing in the agricultural business," Gibbs said. "We really needed that as some of the plants were getting stressed because of the heat and lack of rain."
Dryness early in the growing season is not bad on a crop already out of the ground because it makes its roots dig deeper for moisture, he said
Auglaize County Farm Service Agency Director Anita Green also is grateful for the rain this week, adding many farmers are hoping for more.
"The farmers were holding their breath when the rain fell because it was very much needed," she said. "For many farmers, rain is still needed, at least in the near term, and the little cooler weather we're having also will assist crops."
Planting is mostly wrapped up in both counties, the directors said. Farmers had a wide planting window this year due to the early spring temperatures.
Gibbs expects wheat to be harvested before the first week in July, at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Wheat harvesting is generally around the July 4 holiday, he said.
Planting and harvesting were delayed several weeks last year due to a wet spring. Many farmers were still planting in June.
According to the weekly crop report for Ohio from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statics Service, corn is 93 percent emerged, compared to 7 percent last year at this time; 94 percent of the soybean crops are planted, compared to 6 percent last year; winter wheat is 99 percent headed, compared to 46 percent last year; the oat crop is 42 percent headed, compared to 1 percent last year; and the first cutting of alfalfa hay is 73 percent completed, compared to 4 percent last year.
Replanting has been minimal this year, Gibbs and Green said.
"In mostly southern Mercer and Auglaize County, because of heavy rain earlier in the planting season, producers needed to replant because the ground then became compacted before the crops could come up," Green said. "But right now, crops that are out of the ground are looking decent."
A few farmers are replanting corn because of Pithium Disease, caused by the cooler weather and damp soil earlier in the planting season, but it's very scattered, Gibbs said. Green advised farmers to watch out for army worm, which has been showing up in some wheat.
Many farmers are now taking off forage crops, such as alfalfa and grass hays, and applying nitrogen to corn. Some have been spraying soybean fields for weed control.
Gibbs reminded farmers to report crops to the USDA - small grains, oats and wheat by June 30 and all else by July 15 - to participate in the USDA federal programs.
The deadline to get crops in the ground for federal crop insurance coverage is June 5 for corn and June 20 for soybeans.
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Weather forecast
for Wednesday:

Mostly sunny