Farmers watch weather’s whims to measure how crops will fare

PLAIN CITY (WCMH)—Fred Yoder, a fourth-generation farmer, is hoping rain falls on his 1,800 acres in Madison and Union Counties that are split evenly by the Big Darby Creek.

He viewed a storm brewing just northwest of his farmland that slipped past most of his fields again, turning southeast along Route 42 between London and Columbus—another near-miss, for the second straight day.

Like many farmers, Yoder uses high-tech equipment with GPS to spread the nutrients more efficiently. To retain soil moisture, he uses cover crops—mostly winter wheat and cereal rye—that are precisely spread across a field with a seeder, holding in moisture that feeds the root systems, and with less surface runoff.

There are already signs that the corn leaves are curling up in dry areas, for self-protection, after days without rain in southeastern Union County, while places just to the north and south had tropical downpours. That is the fickle nature of summer storms.

Matt Sullivan, superintendent of Ohio State’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, said there is a lot of rainfall variation that impacts crop status in northern and central Ohio during the critical pollination phase.

“Right now is the worst possible time when you can have a drought.”

After a moist planting season, about three quarters of Ohio is considered dry or in a mild to moderate drought this summer.

“In the past 15 years, we’ve been able to implement new technologies by applying nitrogen fertilizers at different times throughout the growing season, but also use cover crops and new types of seeders and technology that will allow us to utilize nitrogen the best as possible,” Sullivan said. The benefit of holding in nutrients means higher yields and less runoff that contributes to algal blooms.

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