Written by H Wayne Wilson
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 00:00
A wet spring, cool temperatures in early August, and extended dry weather of late has farmers once again flummoxed by Mother Nature. It isn’t all bad news, but the crop yields may not be quite as good as once expected, especially for soybeans.
The third wettest April on record in the state and more rain in May kept farmers from getting an early start on planting their row crops. Corn planting was pushed to mid to late May and the soybean crop wasn’t finished until June. Although planting was two to three weeks later than usual, there was still expectation that crop yield would be good because the earlier rains had recharged the subsoil after the 2012 drought.
But as summer passed by, there was a shortage of rainfall and a lack of heating degree days. The cool temperatures in late July and early August delayed plant maturity somewhat, but recent warm weather has corrected that to an extent. Some rainfall in the next few days may help enlarge corn kernels before they reach the black layer stage. This stage signifies physiological maturity of the kernel, when the bottom of the kernel where it attaches to the cob turns dark, cutting off the flow of water and dry materials into the kernel. All in all, Peoria County Farm Bureau Manager Patrick Kirchhofer says “corn crops look decent considering we’ve had four to six weeks of dry weather.”
The soybean yields are still in question. The dry weather can affect them in three ways – fewer pods, fewer beans in each pod and the size of the beans. Rain in the near future can still help increase the size of the beans. Another concern is the temperature. Because they were planted later than usual, an early autumn frost may have a deleterious effect on bean plants.
While there have been some Japanese beetles in a few bean fields, the pest outbreak this year has been minimal. The weed issue is different. Farmers will have to change their management practices as some weeds are developing a resistance to Roundup herbicide. They will be looking at more crop rotation, no-till techniques and a winter cover crop like rye grass, which not only reduces weeds but its deep roots break up soil compaction and help control erosion. A legume cover crop, like clover, also adds nitrogen to the soil.
Corn and beans are by far the dominant row crops in Peoria County, with 125,000 acres of corn this year and 75,000 acres of beans. Wheat trails with a mere 5,000 acres. The soil in many parts of the county will help make a difference in yields. The western and northwestern parts of the county have a richer silt/loam that holds moisture better and crop yields may be higher in those areas. Silt/loam also has a higher organic matter content.
The spring and summer months in central Illinois have ranged from extremely wet to moderately dry. But the yields can still be impacted by what is to happen in the next week or two. Mother Nature has yet to reveal what that may be.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 14:14