It was a year of extremes for farmers in northern Illinois, from fields suffocating under too much water in the spring, to no rain in mid to late summer. Manhattan, Ill., farmer Dave Kestel says while yields are still impressive, they would have been extraordinary if they would have just caught one of those summer rains.
"Oh, I can't imagine where our field average would have been if we would have had, say an inch every two weeks during that dry spell," says Kestel. "I can’t imagine would our yields could have been."
He says his fields missed some of those crucial rains this summer that would have put his corn field average well over 200 bushels per acre.
"This year we're average to some fields below average some fields above average," he says. "On the monitor, where you have good ground, your monitor will spike up, then you’ll go over a clay spot and your monitor will drop down to 110, 120."
Kestel says his crops went longer without rain this year than during the drought of 2012. That forced his outlook on this year’s crop prior to harvest to become grim.
"We thought it was over," he says. "I mean the crop progress had slowed down to a crawl, leaves on the corn wrapped up real bad every day, the bean leafs were wilting."
That’s a dramatic shift from when AgDay visited Kestel this spring. Gushing water and drowning fields made farmers question whether they’d ever get into the field to plant.
"We thought ‘when are we going to get back in the field again,’ but it dried relatively quick and thank God now, that we did get that big rain, because that's what took us through the dry spell this summer," he says.
Looking at fields today, he says it’s impressive how long both crops were able to hold on.
"The pods were flat and we honestly thought we were going to be looking at 20 to 25 bushel beans," says Kestel. "And now, it's amazing how well that plant was able to hold on and wait for that rain."
While he’s just starting to roll on soybeans, he thinks yields will range anywhere from 30 to 50 bushels per acre, depending largely on soil type.
That’s far from the best yields he’s ever seen, but he says it’s still unbelievable to see what these crops were able to produce with no rain for seven weeks.
"I go to all these agronomy meetings and listen to all these university people and they talk about all the plant breeding and the drought tolerance they've bred into these crops," says Kestel. "I'm a firm believer in that now."
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