CENTRAL ILLINOIS CORN NEEDS A DRINK!

Central Illinois is expected to get some much needed rain tomorrow and Friday and it can’t come too soon.  The fields are dry, the crop is suffering, and the excessive heat here over Memorial Day weekend didn’t exactly help the emerging crop.

Is your lawn turning yellow?  Are your flowers receiving daily waterings from your hose or watering can?  Think of the acres of corn and soybeans burning up under our current scorching conditions!

Here are some of the latest crop reports from corn farmers around Illinois:

The chances for rain don’t appear to be destined to hit our farm this weekend. We are extremely dry and hurting for a rain. The yard is looking like the dog days of August. Thursday of last week we had 90+ degrees and 40+ MPH dry winds……..a bit eery as the sky looked dark in the afternoon filled with dirt. We’ll make knee high by the 4th of June* but if it doesn’t rain as plants determine ear size, those plants are feeling a little sick not wanting to support too many kernels. – Rob Elliott, Cameron, IL

*The old farmer adage is that the corn crop should be “knee high by the fourth of July.”  This year, because weather and soil conditions allowed farmers to plant much earlier than usual, the crop will be knee high by the fourth of June.

After getting 6+ inches of rain the end of April and first week of May, we had gotten very dry. Beans that had been drilled had spotty stands because once the soil was opened up, it dried very quickly.*  Some beans took hold, some swelled before the moisture was sucked away, and some were just in dry dirt. On Memorial Day, we were teased with a shower in the morning that got the sidewalks wet, but were blessed with .7 inches later in the day,  – Tom Mueller, Taylor Ridge, IL

*Drilling beans means that a small trench was dug into the soil and the beans placed into the trench.  This act of “opening up the soil” allowed the moisture that was protected deeper in the earth to evaporate.

The corn planted March 30 looks the best. I replanted 250 acres of April 9th low ground corn on May 10th.  It really needs a drink.  The rest of the corn looks good today after a long hot Memorial weekend.  Mark Degler, Mattoon, IL

MANY FARMERS ARE FINISHED PLANTING CORN!

Historically speaking, it is sort of a rarity for farmers to be finished planting corn by May 1.  In fact, often, farmers are only just starting planting corn on May 1!

Here’s what some of our Illinois Corn leadership have to say about their planting status and the fields in their area:

corn seedlingApril 26: Finished planting today. About 1/3 of our corn is out of the ground. Looking like a really good start.  Justin Durdan – Utica, IL

April 26:We finished planting corn on the 23rd .  Start replanting tomorrow.  One field for sure, two more are suspect.  Earliest finish for us in a long time along with most corn acres planted.  Beat second earliest planting finish by over a week.  A light inch rain would be great.  Crops are looking good and I believe the cold spells are over.  Jeff Scates – Shawneetown, IL

There’s more info about how the spring planting season is going for central Illinois farmers in this article.  Our own Executive Director is even quoted in it!

CORN PLANTING CONCLUDES IN SOME AREAS OF THE STATE

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.

PLANTING 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

GROUNDHOG DAY, WINTER WEATHER, AND AGRICULTURE

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

FIRES IN THE FIELDS

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!

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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?