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OH farmers get early start on crops amid concerns

5:01 PM, Apr 14, 2012   |    comments
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - While Ohio farmers are getting an earlier than usual start to spring planting thanks to a mild and relatively dry winter, they still have some weather-related concerns.

Some worry about the lack of colder temperatures that help control insects, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/Hxr9De). "Most farmers prefer to have a nice hard freeze," said farmer Brent Hostetler of Plain City in central Ohio. Allan Reid, a seed dealer in Fairfield County, worries there won't be adequate rain this spring and summer.

"The weather patterns have just been unusual, and at some point, you get a little nervous wondering if it's going to rain and when it's going to rain," said Reid, Ruff Seed Farms general manager. Heavy rains delayed most of last year's planting until June. As of Monday, farmers had planted 2 percent of Ohio's corn and 42 percent of its oats, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last year at this time, farmers had planted no corn and only 4 percent of Ohio's oats. "In the big scope of things, the early spring and the warm weather has been a blessing," said Stan Smith, a Fairfield County farmer who also works in the county's Ohio State University Extension office.

Corn growers nationwide intend to plant 95.9 million acres, up 4 percent from last year and the highest since the 1930s, according a survey the Agriculture Department released in March. Ohio corn growers expect to plant 3.8 million acres, up 12 percent from last year.

Strong demand is linked to the predicted production increase, with the price per bushel of corn remaining above $6. The planned soybean acreage nationwide is 73.9 million acres, down 1 percent, but Ohio soybean growers plan 4.6 million acres, the same as last year. While early indicators generally are positive overall, "that won't mean much if there is extreme weather over the next few months," said Barry Ward, an agricultural economist at Ohio State University.

Fruit growers don't want any more cold temperatures this spring. Apple growers say their crop is at a delicate state this year, with trees blooming three to four weeks early. "If it gets into the low 20s, there may not be an apple crop," said Bill Dodd, an apple farmer in northeast Ohio and president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Association.

Forty percent of Ohio's apples and 52 percent of its peaches were blooming as of Monday, compared to none last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Associated Press

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