A Publication of WTVP

Crop yields for the 2013 growing season are coming in higher than expected—especially corn—with numerous fields in the Peoria area having reported yields well above 200 bushels per acre. The average yield for our region is yet to be determined (results in February 2014), but it should be well above the previous two years, which averaged in the 165 bushel-per-acre range. The yields have surprised many farmers, with both August and September being very dry and temperatures reaching 90 degrees on several days late in the growing season.

Why the higher-than-expected corn yields? I believe the number-one reason we continue to see yields higher than expected, even with inclement weather, is seed genetics. Millions of dollars have been poured into research, while seed research companies have created avenues to speed the process to produce kernels of corn that are more drought-, disease- and insect-tolerant. What a simple way to increase the efficiency of rain, sun and soil without adding extra fertilizer or crop-protectant herbicides. In fact, the amount of fertilizer and herbicides can even be reduced while yields increase.

The weather is always a factor in determining yields once the fall harvest season arrives. In the first half of the year, January through June, Illinois had a record amount of rainfall. While the four-to-six-inch downpours are never good for keeping soil in the field, the rains created subsoil filled to the max with moisture. Those farmers who were fortunate to find dry fields in May reaped the rewards this fall. Once the rain finally did slow down—and nearly came to a screeching halt in late July—the corn had tasseled and pollinated, and the cobs were filled to the tip of the ear with kernels. In addition, with moisture levels excellent during the first half of the season, we experienced a very cool summer through the first part of August. Temperatures in the low 80s during the day, dropping into the 60s at night, created ideal corn-growing weather. Stress on plants is minimal with these types of temperatures.

On the soybean side, yields seem to be average. As a general rule, rains in July will benefit corn the most, while to reach peak soybean yields, rains need to fall in August. With the hot and dry August, soybean yields were lowered in three ways. First, the number of pods on each plant was lower. When soybeans plants are stressed due to dry weather, pods will abort from the plant. Secondly, under ideal conditions, each pod will produce three or four beans, but stress will cause only one or two beans to develop in some of the pods. Third, with the lack of August moisture, the size of the soybean was also reduced. The combination of these three factors reduced yield.

A fourth factor that might have played a role in yield reduction in some fields this year was the late planting date. Soybeans are typically planted in May, but with the wet spring, several Peoria-area fields were planted in June, and some in early July. Soybean plants are light-sensitive, and as the days become shorter into autumn, they begin to mature and ripen. With a shortened growing season, plants simply do not have the time to reach their full yield potential.

Overall, it was a good year for agriculture in this region, as higher yields give a big boost to our local economy. Additional bushels of corn and soybeans equate to additional storage needs, transportation and processing, livestock to feed, and products to make. Although a large supply of crops often results in lower prices for farmers, you, as a consumer, also benefit as processors of corn and soybeans are receiving product at lower prices—savings which they can pass on to you as a consumer. The weather during the crop-growing season really can affect your pocketbook. iBi