It appears that Illinois farmers have been dealt a near-perfect hand this year. Timely planting combined with July moisture and cool nights have set the stage for high yields.
With its Aug. 12 Crop Production report, USDA forecast Illinois farmers to see average corn yields of 188 bu./acre (second only to Washington, where yields are expected to be 210 bu./acre). Illinois soybeans are supposed to lead the nation in yields, with a state average of 54 bu./acre.
"The overall condition of the corn crop is good to excellent, while the soybean crop would be average to good," says Fred Below, University of Illinois crop physiologist. "For corn, I expect to see some very high yields, and overall I expect the crop to be better than normal, maybe even much better than normal."
While Below is optimistic for the state’s soybean crop, he’s expecting only an average or slightly less than average crop. "The biggest challenge to both crops this year was excess precipitation in June, leading to standing water is parts of some fields," he says. "Stunted growth and, in extreme cases plant death, occurred as a result of this ponding, especially for soybeans."
Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois crop sciences professor, agrees that soybean yield prospects are not yet clear, but their potential is good. "Cool weather has delayed development some, but the crops currently are not much, if any, behind normal development," he says. "They will fall behind if cool weather continues, with soybeans likely to fall farther behind than corn."
Cool and wet conditions do pose some concerns. Below says it is still too soon to tell if leaf disease will be an issue in corn, although he says there is a possibility. As for diseases and pests, he says the verdict is still out for soybeans, although a fair number of grasshoppers have been seen in some areas.
As harvest nears, Nafziger says the corn crop would benefit from some warmer weather. "Corn moisture at harvest could be on the high side if cool weather continues," he says. "It would be good to have more sunshine than we have had so far in August, but the crop has the potential to fully fill kernels/seed."
But, he says, farmers shouldn’t be too worried about frost, at least at this point. "Continued cool weather could delay soybeans, and might delay corn a little, but neither crop is in much danger of frost unless frost is earlier than normal," he says.