By Mark Badertscher
Hardin County – With the help of fifteen volunteer rainfall reporters, the Hardin County Extension office has collected unofficial township rainfall data for the past twenty-nine consecutive years. The 2021 growing season began with some early planting in April followed by wet fields until the end of May.
This caused issues with ponding, replanting, and some crops getting planted later than planned. Once crops did get planted, the months of June and July brought lower than average rainfall for the first half of the growing season.
Because of favorable weather for forages in May, hay fields were harvested on time in June with good quality. After emerging, corn and soybean fields were growing at a slower than normal rate. Later planting and drier weather in June helped with weed control and timing of herbicide applications in crops. July brought some needed rains to the county as rainfall amounts were near normal for the month, but still below the growing season average. August brought more dry weather, slowing down ear fill and soybean growth. Some areas of the county were dry enough to cause smaller soybean seeds and incomplete pod fill. Because of this reason, there has been variation in yields.
Dry conditions in June did allow farmers to harvest an abundant wheat crop with good grain quality. Wheat yields were higher than normal compared to other years. This crop was harvested in a timely fashion with favorable market prices, providing cash flow and made fields available for manure applications and cover crop seeding. Because of higher soybean prices, some farmers planted double crop soybeans. However, growth was limited because of the dry moisture conditions in fields following wheat harvest. Since corn root growth was slowed early in the season, some fields were slower to take advantage of applied nitrogen, causing slow vegetative growth. Following a dry period in June, crops received very important rains in July. Forages continued to be harvested and corn and soybean fields showed more vegetative growth.
Rains received in August and September helped the crops, but were not enough to make up for lower than normal seasonal rainfall. Some of the corn crop was already slowed by drought stress earlier in the season. Ear development and kernel fill was not as productive in the fields where lack of rainfall was an issue earlier in the season. Some areas were dry enough to slow soybean growth and seed development. The first half of October brought an average of 1.17 inches of rain to the county, which is normal for this time of year. The least amount of rainfall in the first half of October was 0.50 inches reported by Rick Weber in Jackson Township. Silver Creek Supply reported 1.69 inches of rain in Taylor Creek Township for the same time-period.
During the growing season, from April 15 through October 15, average rainfall was 19.41 inches, which made 2021 a dry year. This is 5.35 inches below the ten-year average growing season precipitation, and 0.94 less inches of rain than last year’s growing season. After a slow start, rainfall was below average throughout the growing season. The most rainfall recorded during the growing season was 22.95 inches in Pleasant Township by George Ziegler. The least rainfall in the county was recorded in Blanchard Township by Nutrien Ag Solutions, with 15.12 inches for the season. The ten-year average for total growing season rainfall in Hardin County is 24.76 inches.
Crop dry down was quicker this year due to drier field conditions. Soybean yields were variable this year across the county, with some fields yielding higher than normal. The early soybean crop was harvested at low moisture, causing shattering and post-harvest soybean germination following harvest with warm temperatures. This caused green carpets of soybeans growing in fields which will be killed with frost. Corn is still being harvested so yields are not complete, with some fields being infected by tar spot and northern corn leaf blight late in the season. Grain moisture is low and overall yields are being reported above average in many fields. Other areas have reported low yields in some corn fields due to either lower rainfall amounts or disease infection, or a combination of the two factors.
Winter wheat acres planted this fall and hay fields planted late summer are off to a good start with planting that was followed by rains and mild fall temperatures. Herbicide, fertilizer, lime, and manure applications have happened in some fields. Some fall tillage has occurred around the county with a few soybean and some corn fields remaining to be harvested after late season rains paused harvest during the past couple of weeks.