Follow our farmer’s progress as they continue the 2012 planting season!

April 22: We have finished planting corn. The earlier fields are starting to peek out of the ground. We will probably start planting soybeans tomorrow.  Jeff Jarboe – Loda, IL

April 21: Started the Monday after Easter, things didn’t go well until Wednesday, and managed to get 1/3 in before the rain Saturday night. We received over 3 in. of rain and we’ve been sitting since. Hard frost last night; I only know of one field up over by Pearl City in this area. Hope to get back to it Monday.  Aron Carlson – Winnebago, IL

April 21: Finished corn on Thursday. First corn I planted is up and looking good. Waiting at least a week to start planting soybeans.  Jim Reed – Monticello, IL

April 21: Saturday morning brought light frost.  Mostly no work done this week up here north of Rt. 30.  We snuck peas in and sprayed them Wednesday afternoon before another light shower.  Paul Taylor – Esmond, IL

Take a look.  Nationally, corn farmers are way ahead of the previous year’s progress.


Farmers like to talk about field conditions and planting progress.  In fact, agriculture is such an art form, that it is interesting to read about different farmer philosophies.  You’ll notice below that our board members like to update each other on planting conditions all over the state and they also over commentary on what other farmers in their areas are doing.

In reality, there is a lot behind each and every farmer’s decisions on when to plant, how to manage their crops, what varieties to plant, and more.  Research plays a huge part in decisions like crop rotations and timing, but the farmer’s past experiences are important too.  Read on for some insight into the mind of an Illinois farmer.

April 7: “Planting pace has been pretty steady in Southern Illinois. We have a little over one third of our corn planted. Lots of folks down here are done with corn. A few beans have went in I heard but the cool weather will hold us out. Wheat has headed and doesn’t want to be below 30 for more than 2 hrs. Wheat harvest should be in the first week of June, about two weeks early.”  Jeff Scates – Shawneetown, IL

April 7: “As of this evening I am half done with corn. A couple of neighbors are done an several are waiting till Monday after Easter to start. Our high ground is very dry but decent moisture most places. Some of those that cultivated out winter annuals or leveled corn on corn ground now must wait for rain before planting as that ground really dried out. Radar shows rain here now but there is nothing getting to the ground.”  Jim Reed – Monticello, IL

(Some farmers plant winter annuals or leave corn stubble from their previous year’s crop in their fields to help hold in moisture and keep top soil from eroding.)

April 8: “We are 15% completed on the Hudson Farm. I planted my partner’s corn first – he is done.  I heard of one farmer that is done with corn and beans.  We were too dry also, until Thursday. We got 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ of rain. This was quite a relief to those that planted in dry dirt.”  Gary Hudson – Hindsboro, IL

(Soybeans are a little less tolerant of cold weather and easily die if a frost hits, so most farmers will still wait to plant soybeans even though the corn is being planted so much earlier than usual.)

April 8: “People are just starting here. I started a field today, but had the usual bugs to work out of the operation. I am hearing most people will hit it hard on Monday.”  Jeff Jarboe – Loda, IL

(When your equipment has been in the shed for the winter, sometimes it takes a day or two to get equipment running properly.  Even a farmer’s hired help – if he or she has them – might need a day to get back into the swing of things!)

April 8: “We plan to start Monday. We really need a little rain.”  Rob Elliott – Cameron, IL

April 10: “Tuesday now & I saw my first planter in the field this morning.  I know planting had been done but I had not seen a corn field planted until today.  Most of my buddies are waiting; not sure for what.  Very dry.  No significant rain here for past 3 1/2 weeks.  Below freezing last two mornings.”  Paul Taylor – Esmond, IL


As GroundHog Day is being celebrated today, many people have anticipated over the past few weeks whether “Phil” the groundhog will see his Shadow. Many dread that six extra weeks of winter while others, like me, welcome it. Either way, agriculturalists know that weather in general can influence crops in hundreds of different ways, good or bad. Despite what most might think, winter weather is actually a vital part of the growing process, and snow has several benefits besides providing a fun filled snow day to students or a day off of work. Snow provides much needed moisture to plants, such as trees, grass, and winter cover crops that must survive the cold season.

What is a cover crop?

illinois, winter, field, farm, agriculture, harvestIn Illinois, it’s typically winter wheat, shown in the picture above, which gets planted between peak production periods of corn and soybeans. This crop typically lays dormant over the winter months and then grows in the early spring season. The cover crop offers farmers another source of income, weed control during the early spring months, along with protecting the soil from wind and water erosion or the washing/blowing away of material from the surface of the soil.

Another major benefit of snow is that it literally creates a blanket for the soil. Soil temperatures actually vary a lot through the course of the year and snow actually is an excellent insulator to keep the soil warmer during the winter months. Typically, for every inch of snow the temperature underneath the snow increases by 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why is the soil temperature important to farmers?

illinois, farm, winter, snow, cornSoil contains millions of different organisms with millions more still not identified that are beneficial and harmful to plants. Many of these organisms need warmer temperatures, moisture, and several other components to survive and typically dive deeper into the soil where it’s warmer or become dormant during the winter months. The organisms that benefit the plant, such as, earthworms and microorganisms, actually eat organic matter. Organic matter consists of dead animal remains or plant material that can decay over time. When harvesting crops a good portion of the plant is actually left in the field where the plants begin to decompose. When millions of these microorganisms eat organic matter or the left over plants, they excrete vital nutrients that plants can use such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur. When the soil becomes warm enough, those organisms become active and start breaking down that organic matter in the soil. When we get snow covering the ground for longer periods of time the cold doesn’t penetrate the ground as deep and protects those organisms in the ground. It also means that the soil takes less time to warm up once the winter months have passed enabling farmers to enter the fields sooner in the spring.

So as the landscape begins to turn green over the next couple months, or whether Phil the groundhog actually sees his shadow or not, know that weather actually plays one of the biggest roles in growing crops year round, including the winter months that we get snow.

Eric King
Western Illinois University Agribusiness student


Originally posted on Corn Commentary

Usually farmers like to have dry weather in the fall to get the crops out of the field – just not too dry!

Harvest season two years ago was so wet that crops in some areas went unharvested until the following spring. This year is a totally different story. Combine fires setting fields on fire have been happening all over the corn belt this season because it has been so dry and windy, the worst areas being Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

“Extreme conditions in South Dakota this fall created a perfect storm of high temperatures, low humidity, dry crops, and high winds producing extreme risk of fires during harvest,” said Daniel Humburg, professor of Ag & Biosystems Engineering Department at South Dakota State University.

There is still plenty of harvesting yet to be done and while most farmers understand the risks of combine fires and how to prevent them, a little reminder never hurts. University of Nebraska farm safety specialist Dave Morgan offers these safety tips:

– Keep your equipment clean and in good repair. When you get done for the day, take time to clean your machine thoroughly with an air compressor, power washer, or even a broom to dislodge any crop residue or chaff from the combine.

– Fix any fuel, hydraulic or oil leaks. When it’s this windy, vegetative matter breaks up into really fine material that readily accumulates on oil and fuel leaks, Morgan said. This creates a source of solid and liquid fuel. From there, it doesn’t take much to start the fire — a dry bearing or a slipping belt can quickly heat up or spark.

– Check fluid levels and carefully refill, being careful not to spill any oil or fuel on the equipment. But don’t overfill fluid reservoirs. With high temperatures in the mid 80s, oil expands and may “burp” out the vent, creating another fuel source for fire.

– Carry at least one, and preferably two, fully charged 10 lb ABC fire extinguishers on all equipment. (Be sure to have your fire extinguishers inspected annually and refilled as necessary).

Let’s be careful out there!


And here’s an update on one Illinois farmer’s harvest:

Jim Raben, Ridgeway – We are about 70% finished with corn and around 54% with soybeans.  This week’s rain is keeping us out of the fields, but we anticipate finishing up soon.

Tell us, where are you at with your harvest?



Some of the farmers in Illinois have more than half of their crop out of the field, while others haven’t started harvest at all! Here’s a look at the harvest conditions in three areas of the state.

Glenn Ginder, Peotone – Virtually none of the corn has been harvested in my area and maybe only one percent of the soybeans. This week, we’ve had just over two inches of rain and the grass is lush and green again, just like May!


Rob Elliott, Cameron – Our corn harvest is progressing well. We have a wide range of yields from 140 bushels per acre to 235 bushels per acre* with moistures between 18-24 percent.** This particular crop is a testimony to the genetic and trait advances coupled with agronomic practices. We’ve suffered an excessively wet June, a hot July with 1+ inches of rain, and a massively hot August with zero rain. The corn crop is fairy fragile with the dryness creating some problems; it won’t tolerate much wind and remain standing so this week’s wind and rain are troublesome.

Stephanie Elliott getting into her tractor during 2011 harvest.

Jeff Scates, Shawneetown – Harvest in southern Illinois is creeping right along. We received five and a half inches of rain over last weekend. Most of the April corn has been harvested along with the mid-May corn though it is still averaging in the low 20’s for percentage moisture. Late May and June corn is still in the 30ish percent moisture levels. Yields have been very inconsistent due to drainage from all the early rains. Overall, yields have been on the better than expected side, but we still have to see what the late corn that pollinated during the extreme heat is going to do. A few beans have been cut with yields a little below average.

*Average yield in 2010 was 165 bushels per acre.
**Percentage moisture indicates how much of the corn kernel remains water during the dry down period. Corn is typically dried to 15 percent before storing to ensure quality. Farmers either allow corn to dry in the field or will harvest at a higher percentage moisture and dry in the bin.


Welcome to Photo Week on Corn Corps! To celebrate National Photography Month, we’re bringing you one photo every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life!

Illinois corn farmers are very concerned with soil and water conservation.  This photo demonstrates a fairly new soil conservation practice called strip tilling.  After a corn crop has been harvested in the fall, the stalks, leaves and corn cobs are left on the soil.  In the spring, the farmer “clears a path” between last year’s rows of corn and plants a new row of corn.  He is essentially tilling only a strip in the soil and then planting his new crop exactly in that strip.

Leaving the remains of last year’s harvest keeps water from washing away the fertile top soil that makes Illinois one of the largest corn producers in the world.


Welcome to Photo Week on Corn Corps! To celebrate National Photography Month, we’re bringing you one photo every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life!

Although we started the 2011 planting season a little slower than average, small shoots like this can now be seen all over central Illinois. In fact, this week’s planting progress report, published by the USDA, indicates that corn planting is 79 percent completed nationwide with 45 percent of corn already emerged.


After a few warm days sees Illinois farmers head to the fields, and a report from the USDA on the progress of corn planting in the nation, how about a quick check in with some Illinois corn farmers?

Paul Taylor of Esmond, IL says: It’s May 10 … long held as the planting date when yield expectations for corn begin to decline for northern Illinois.  It is a good time to be wrapping up corn planting.  Local progress has been significant since we got back into the fields May 2nd.  Because of cold soil temps, very little corn was planted prior to that date around here, me included.   Now after nine days of uninterrupted field work and planting, my farming partners and I are down to the last field before finishing up our 2011 corn planting.  

corn fields planter illinois
Paul looks back at the 2011 planting season.

As I look around the neighborhood, I would estimate that 65% of the corn is in.  Considering we are a pretty heavy corn on corn area, that is incredible productivity for a few days since the weather has improved and machines started moving.   We should have major emergence of corn in the area within a short time frame.  That could raise a concern here as we enter the sensitive pollination window of mid-July. 

Most of the fields appear to be in very good soil conditions.  Only an occasional wet hole has been left and planted around.  We are off to a delayed, but now great start for the 2011 crop year.  Beans are now going in at a rapid pace.  For an industry that needs big crops to feed the needs of feed, food, and fuel, I hope the rest of the heartland can get a good start as we finally did.  Have a safe and profitable season.

Jim Robbins of Manhattan, IL: We are about half done with corn planting and we started a couple of days ago on soybeans.  We have about 300 acres of soybeans planted.  The corn we planted the 15th of April isn’t up yet, so we may be re-planting some of the corn.

Conditions are beautiful right now.  The last couple of days have been really nice out in the field.  When we started on Saturday conditions were marginal, but Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday have been good.  And now it’s too hot!

Martin Barbre of Carmi, IL: As of today there are a few farmers starting to spread fertilizer and do some spraying. Planting will probably get started today or tomorrow, but only on high ground. Flood waters are still covering a large portion of the bottom land in White county.

We can plant about half our corn and beans in the next week. Then it will be at least another week on the rest.  We lost about 250 acres of wheat during this wet spring. There were several thousand acres of wheat and planted corn lost in our area.

Illinois corn planting water flood
Martin looks for a dry spot to plant.