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Ample rain, warm temps have made for a good corn crop

LaSalle News Tribune

Tuesday, July 10, 2018  |  Article  |  

Agriculture (2)

Forget knee high by the Fourth of July.

These days, those familiar with corn are mostly seeing a crop that’s head high by Independence Day, said Mark Schleusener, an Illinois statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although tall corn doesn’t necessarily mean higher yields, corn farmers are ahead in the growing season, farmers told the NewsTribune.

Eighty-four percent of Illinois corn crop was rated good or excellent as of July 2, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. A “good” rating means yield prospects are normal or better; moisture levels are adequate with minimal disease and insect damage. “Excellent” ratings mean yield prospects are above normal and crops are experiencing little, if any, stress.

These ratings are the best they’ve been in the past 10 years at this point in the season, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service data.

Most of the corn around the state looks good right now, thanks to timely rain and good rains proceeding hot temperatures, Schleusener said.

“In my opinion, we definitely are way ahead in the growing season,” said Daryle Wragge, ag coordinator for University of Illinois Extension for Marshall, Putnam, Bureau and La Salle counties, who also farms in the Marshall and Woodford counties. But he cautions against saying it’s a record-breaking yield year.

The heat has “really pushed the corn along,” he said.

His concern is that when corn grows fast, the cellular strength in the stalk becomes brittle and subject to wind damage, he said.

He said he wishes prices would reflect the positive corn growth, though.

“I do believe the tariffs have an extremely strong influence on prices. The trade wars aren’t good for anyone,” he said.

Bob Beutke has farmed for 35 years and says this is the best corn year he’s seen.

Due to ample rainfall and because planting got started early, his corn crops “look awesome,” he said. He farms southeast of Grand Ridge, near Ottawa and in Livingston County.

Beutke said on July 3 that 50 percent of the corn in La Salle and Livingston counties is silking and “the rest will be silking by tomorrow.” If the rest of the season goes well, he estimates that he’ll be at least two weeks ahead of schedule than normal.

Farmers are about halfway through the growing season, but good rainfall and warmer than average temperatures accelerated the season for corn, said Russ Higgins, an educator with crop sciences with University of Illinois Extension.

“Some farmers may argue that they have had too much rain, but in most cases, I always think it’s better to have too much water than not enough,” Higgins said.

Higgins is based in Morris but covers most of Northern Illinois for his job, including La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties. Most of the corn fields he’s driven past look good and have a dark, green color.

Although the crop looks good, this period, tasseling and pollination, is one of the most critical times. If the crop endures any type of stress (like if it stops raining or a leaf disease occurs), it could have significant impact on yields, Higgins said.

Much of the corn around the Illinois Valley area looks higher than knee high, which is the result of greatly improved genetics and earlier planting of the crop, he said.

While tall plants are often appreciated by farmers, “that does not always necessarily mean higher corn yields.” Higgins said.

The corn is just beginning reproductive growth (which is what farmers will harvest) although it has done lots of vegetative growth already, Schleusener said.

Tall plants might be more prone to snapping over from the wind, but Higgins said he doesn’t think the height of our corn is cause for concern.

“I think we’ve got some very good genetics,” he said.