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Corn Harvest Going Well In Fayette Co., OH

The corn harvest is underway in earnest in Fayette County. Here at the grain elevator in Bloomingburg, just north of Washington Court House, trucks unloading corn are lined up bumper to bumper on a Sunday afternoon.

Earlier this year, Ohio's farmers wondered if there was going to be much of a crop at all. The growing season was marked by drought in some parts of the state. Fayette County farmer and county commissioner Tony Anderson says he's been fortunate.

"I told my wife the other day that for us this has been the most perfect driest year that I can recall farming," Anderson says. "Every time a cloud showed up in the county seems like we got just a few drops off of it. And we just harvested 150 bushels dry corn to the acre off of a rock hill red clay farm."

Combines are now moving methodically across this agriculture county where 90 percent of the land is devoted to agriculture. Though it's not one of Ohio's larger counties, it's one of the top ten producers of corn and soy beans. Statewide, the corn harvest is predicted to be 150 bushels an acre according to Ohio State University Corn Extension Agronomist Peter Thomison.

"If we end up getting 150 bushels per acre that may end up being our second highest yield on record," Thomison says. "That's phenomenal given the dry weather we've had."

Thomison spoke at the annual Farm Science Review earlier this month near London. A colleague, the dean of Purdue University's College of Agriculture, Randy Woodson, says continued corn hybridization, which started in the 1920s, is doing a lot to increase yields.

"The newer genetics coming out actually provide corn with a built in resistance to environmental stress," Woodson says. "So corn's become much more drought tolerant, much more heat tolerant, cool season tolerant."

Woodson says corn's getting a lot of attention these days because it now will be used for fuel as well as food. The demand for corn to make ethanol will soon hit Fayette County. Adjacent to the Bloomingburg elevator is a giant ethanol plant in the final stages of construction. Again Tony Anderson.

"They're building a 110 million gallon ethanol plant," Anderson says. "It will be a huge, huge asset to the community of farmers it serves. We estimate that it should probably be pulling in corn from a 35-mile radius around here. They're anticipating a need for 40 million bushels of corn a year."

Fayette County produces 10 million bushels a year. Most of it now is used as livestock feed. That's putting pressure on local farmers as to what to plant next year. John Yost is the OSU Extension Agent for Fayette County.

"Right now everyone's getting into harvest," Yost says. "But in the back of their mind they're thinking, 'What varieties am I going to plant next year?' 'Is this field going to be corn or beans?' It can be some uneasy times for some people right now; some restless nights trying to figure out what to do."

There's serious consideration to begin skipping crop rotation and grow corn after corn. Again, Purdue University's Randy Woodson.

"Typically in this part of the country you grow corn one year and soy beans the next," Woodson says. "And because the value of corn is so great, farmers are looking at planting corn right after corn. And that has some implications for input costs, for fertilizer costs. So there's a lot of issues on the table now."

"In spite of the demand for corn, Fayette County extension agent John Yost says he doesn't see a dramatic increase in corn production.

"They're looking at $3.50 a bushel for corn, and almost $10 a bushel for soy beans."

Yost says farmers will be spending some late nights penciling in the numbers. The corn harvest, meanwhile, is expected to continue until mid-November.