This past November, Peoria-area farmers wrapped up the 2014 corn and soybean harvest, and it was one for the record books, as the planting, weather and harvest were ideal for most farm fields in central Illinois.

What will the final yields be for corn and soybeans? Corn will likely average around 200 bushels per acre, with soybeans in the 60 bushel-per-acre range. This compares to a very good 180-bushel corn average and a respectable 50-bushel soybean average in 2013. Even in the drought year of 2012, many Peoria County farm fields were fortunate to receive some early summer rains, with the corn crop averaging 162 bushels an acre. Soybeans faired even better at 54 bushels an acre in 2012, as the drought broke with cooler and wetter weather in August. Peoria County happened to be in the garden spot that year, as the statewide averages were much, much lower.

At the Peoria Farm Show on December 2nd, the notable Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor reviewed the weather for the 2014 growing season that produced this bumper crop. He made a keen observation regarding growing degree days, a measure of corn-growing conditions that primarily involves the temperature. For the most part, the higher the temperature (maximum of 86 degrees), the higher the number of growing degree days that are accumulated.

To harvest a bountiful corn crop in the fall, according to Taylor, a high number of growing degree days is needed in the first half of the growing season, followed by a lower number in the second half. That makes sense. When corn is planted in the April/May timeframe, warm and dry weather will force the young corn plants to grow roots deep into the soil profile searching for moisture. In the latter half of the season, cooler temperatures allow the corn plants to put their energy into producing kernels.

In 2014, we had optimal planting conditions in April and May, followed by a cool summer with timely rainfall. As an added bonus, the Peoria area had an ideal fall season as the rain spigot turned off and allowed farmers to harvest their crops.

There are many upsides to a bumper crop: more bushels for farmers to sell; more grain for trucks, trains and barges to transport; more grain for processors and farmers with livestock; and a general boost to the entire economy. The one downside? Lower prices. This fall, corn prices were lower—around $1 a bushel less than 2013—and soybean prices were about $3 a bushel less than last year.

Another point which I briefly mentioned is the boost to livestock farmers. Just two years ago, farmers with animals were feeling the financial pinch as they paid record prices to purchase feed for their livestock. Fast forward to 2014, and livestock farmers are reaping the rewards of their staying power and perseverance as the feed they’re purchasing is much lower, while livestock prices have reached record-high levels.

There are all types of cycles in our economy. The farm economy has its share, and farmers must be able to weather these cycles. iBi