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Farmers hope December rains precede another strong year


One of the wettest Decembers in the last half-century closed a just-right year for rain and production for the state’s agriculture industry.

After a too-wet 2011 and a too-dry 2012, the state’s growers saw the right rainfall at the right times for a big boost in corn production, experts said. That matched a national trend, which remained on pace for record corn yields throughout the year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that nearly 14 billion bushels of corn were produced in 2013, a record that is almost 30 percent more than last year, which widespread drought conditions diminished.

Production in Ohio also improved significantly. It’s estimated 631.6 million bushels of corn would be a 40 percent boost from 2012, according to USDA forecasts. In the 49 years from 1964-2012, Ohio’s corn production averaged 381.2 million bushels, or about 60 percent of the total forecast for this year.

“It was a very good year, especially for the corn crop,” said Joe Cornely, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau. “We had a lot of high yields, and in some areas of the state there were record high yields.

“It was one of those years we got the right amount of precipitation at the right time.”

Through Sunday, 36.37 inches of precipitation had fallen on the Dayton area this year, while 48.12 inches fell on the Cincinnati area. Dayton’s December rainfall of 4.58 inches ranks fifth-most since 1950 and was aided by a whopping 2.46 inches that covered the area on Dec. 21.

The Cincinnati area’s 4.93 inches in December was ninth-most since 1950, according to numbers from the National Climatic Data Center.

Those numbers ended a welcome 2013 for the state’s farmers, who had experienced extremes in the previous two years. In 2011, heavy spring rains propelled Cincinnati to an all-time annual rainfall record of 73.27 inches, while Dayton saw its second-wettest year on record at 56.72 inches.

Then came the dry 2012. Parts of Ohio were in some form of drought for 41 consecutive weeks, from May 22, 2012, to March 5, 2013. That included a period from June through October when at least two-thirds of the state was in a constant state of some form of drought.

Much of the state did not fully pull itself from dry conditions until December 2012.

“Even in 2012 we had some later rains and some good crops,” said John Schlichter, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “Then we had a pretty good balance of timely rainfall this past year. I don’t think there was an overabundance at any one time, it was just a nice, steady pace.”

That pleased the growers, who said there’s no single cause of a strong season.

“Too much rain at one time is detrimental, so spaced-out moisture and precipitation over the whole growing season is what’s important,” said Brian Harbage, a South Charleston farmer. “You always remember your best years and your worst years, and this was a very good year.”

Even though December is outside the growing season, precipitation in any month is helpful for the farming industry, growers said. Farmers said it’s important to help the soil for the coming months by building up groundwater. That often is aided by snow freezing and the water seeping into the ground.

Or, in some cases, it’s in December rainfall, although the large amount that dropped on the region earlier this month was too much.

“At some point there was nowhere for it to go,” said Chad Kemp, a fifth-generation farmer in Preble and Darke counties. “Then it’s surface drainage that moves things around from one place to another, and eventually we have to get it back to the right place.”

The state’s farmers will now look forward to 2014 and hope for another helpful mix of rain and dry weather for more strong production. They say December’s precipitation has helped set up the soil for a solid start to the spring.

“We’re always cautiously optimistic,” Kemp said. “You want to have the best yields you can get, and looking at the moisture we’re getting now, we’re going into 2014 in pretty good shape.”



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