The crops have finally been planted. It was a long spring planting season for farmers in the Peoria area. Statewide, weather conditions this spring were the fifth wettest on record. That dates back to 1895, when record keeping for precipitation in Illinois began. Precipitation across the state in March, April and May averaged 15.9 inches, which is 4.5 inches above normal.
In Peoria, it was the wettest spring on record, with 19.9 inches reported. The wettest conditions recorded in Illinois this spring were in St. David in Fulton County, with 27.7 inches of rain.
On June 1st, the Illinois Statistics Service reported that just 82 percent of the state’s corn crop was planted. Last year, another wet season, farmers had 91 percent of the corn crop in the ground by that time. A normal year would have 99 percent of the corn planted by June 1st.
The report also showed that 54 percent of soybeans were planted by June 1st. This compares to only 24 percent last year, and a normal average of 70 percent planted.
How are these percentages figured? I was curious, so I called the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service Illinois field office in Springfield. They informed me that on Thursdays or Fridays, county farm service agencies, Natural Resource Conservation Service offices, some grain elevators and farmers report to their office on the estimated planted acreage. There are approximately 200 respondents to the survey from throughout the state.
So just what does all of this wet weather mean for Peoria-area agriculture? That question has been asked quite often this spring. As a general rule of thumb, if the corn is planted before mid-May, farmers can still achieve excellent yields with favorable growing conditions during the summer. Unfortunately, this year much of the corn crop was not planted by then, so we can expect some yield reduction on those acres. How much yield reduction? If I knew…What is the precipitation going to be in July, August and September? What are the daytime and nighttime temperatures going to be in July and August? Will there be any diseases that affect the crop this year? Are any insects going to consume the crops? If I knew the answers to any of these questions, my predictions could be slightly more accurate. That’s the thrill (or migraine) of farming—all of those unknowns.
According to Jim Angel, state climatologist with the Illinois State Water Survey, historically, wet springs do not lead to wet summers. In addition, the well-known climatologist Elwynn Taylor of Iowa State University has forecast that conditions this summer could be hotter than normal in the western U.S. That weather outlook is not bad news for farmers in the Midwest, because Taylor notes that every time the western U.S. has had hot weather in the past 30 years, it has been cooler than normal here. He referenced this temperature split as having occurred in 1992 and 2004, and both times corn yields set new records.
Heading into the summer months, we have plenty of subsoil moisture. That will get the corn crop off to an excellent start, as long as the fields are able to drain the excess water off.
Farmers have been looking skyward much of the time this year. The faucet has been running quite often. They’re hoping the well has not run dry. iBi