Kyle Reusch climbed on his John Deere tractor Wednesday and maneuvered the farm machinery through the fields of Kruggel Farms, his family’s farm in Litchfield, looking for dry spots.
Farmers like Reusch, 35, have taken to trying to plant in the dry spots in fields this season in an attempt to at least get some of their crops in the ground.
“With this rain, we aren’t even halfway through planting our field,” said Justina Reusch, 33, who owns and operates the farm with her husband. “We have about 1,400 acres that we plant between our own ground and rented ground.”
The constant rains this spring are forcing many Ohio farmers to get creative as they look for ways to plant. Many even wonder if they’ll have any crops at all this year — all due to a very wet spring.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, just one-third of Ohio’s corn crop had been planted as of a week ago. In a typical year, farmers would have nearly all of their corn fields planted.
Soybean planting is also behind because of the wet weather.
Only Indiana is further off pace than Ohio when it comes to delays in planting, according to the federal data.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation said this is the worst planting season since it started tracking planting progress in the 1970s.
“Because of all the rain and wet weather, we’ve had delayed planting this year,” said Tyler Arters, who farms 1,200 acres in Chatham Township. “We are probably a month and a half, two months behind on planting this year.”
Arters, 28, farms corn and soybean and is a board member of the Medina County Farm Bureau. He said he is not alone. Issues like this are not just limited to the Medina County but have been widespread throughout the state, he said.
“There are going to be a bunch of fields filled with weeds,” said Ty Higgins, a spokesman with at the Columbus-based Ohio Farm Bureau. “It’s going to change the entire landscape of the countryside of northwest Ohio.”
The effects of late planting are felt far and wide.
The delay in planting hinders how much product farmers can produce in a season which, in turn, affects how much they can sell.
“The later the crop goes in, the fewer number of bushels usually it produces because there is less sunlight for growing season,” said Jim Dieter, district manager of the Medina County Water and Soil Conservation District.
“You lose like a bushel a day, for corn anyway, after the 10th of May if you delay planting that long.”
Plan B for many farmers would be to move to soybeans if the ground dries up enough to get them planted. Soybeans can be planted later than some other crops such as corn although farmers will still have a shorter season.
But if the rain keeps coming, soybeans may not work out either.
“If the weather keeps up, we take out crop insurance so we don’t plant the field and we are paid based on average yield for the area,” Arters said.
In addition to a shorter season for soybeans, planting late can affect crops produced in the fall.
“It already has actually,” Arters said. “Being that we haven’t gotten the soybeans in early, that means the soybeans will come off late. When the soybeans come off late, we can’t get our wheat planted for the next year … we may not get a wheat crop in for next year.”
Farmers raising livestock are struggling to get dry hay to use as feed.
“There has never been a window yet to really get out and make hay,” said Mike Boyert of Seville, part of the multi-generation Boyert’s Greenhouse & Farm. “To do dry hay was virtually impossible up until now.”
Boyert said there is currently no dry hay in his barns.
He has been able to let his animals out into the pastures to feed, but the problem with that is the crop in the pastures were meant to be used throughout the winter.
“Normally by now we’re getting ready to make second cuttings, but we haven’t even put up our first cutting yet,” he said. “That takes away numbers of dollars.”