A Publication of WTVP

As of mid-July, the corn and soybean crop in the Peoria area seemed to be on its way to a healthy harvest. Soils were dry, but on July 8, the rains came, with generous amounts reported throughout the region. The beneficial rains came at a critical time, especially for corn, as the crop was just beginning to tassel and pollinate. Moisture needs are highest for corn during the month of July. Soybeans aren’t far behind, as the critical moisture demand for them is in August.

During the first week of July, we experienced 90-degree temperatures. After a cool spring, this brought us more in line with normal crop growing conditions. The rains during the second week of July were followed by cooler temperatures. This put the crop in good condition for pollination and kernel fill.

In July and August, farmers routinely check their fields for insects and diseases. The corn rootworm beetle and European cornborer are two insects that have infested corn fields in central Illinois. The larvae of the rootworm beetle feeds on corn roots early in the season. Later in the growing season, the adult beetle emerges and feeds on corn silks, which could reduce the pollination rate.

The European cornborer has a lifecycle that can be very destructive to corn. Two or three generations can affect yields during one growing season. Early in the season, first generation larvae feed on young, tender corn leaves. Second and third generation borers tunnel into the stalk and ears, disrupting water and nutrient flow. Damage to the stalks can cause lodging later in the season, making harvest difficult. Peoria area farmers have recent memories of severe lodging. Downed corn stalks require extra equipment on combines and decrease efficiency of the harvest.

Corn diseases are most prominent later in the season when temperatures and humidity levels are high. Some common diseases include gray leaf spot and northern and southern rust. In recent years, diseases have had less yield-robbing effects due to improved hybrids.

To help control insects, farmers have adopted integrated pest management practices. For instance, farmers rotate their crops each growing season. This disrupts the lifecycle of the insects. Farmers have also utilized the latest in plant breeding and research to lessen insecticide applications.

On the soybean side, the beginning of August marks the critical flowering and pod fill stage. Rains this month will keep yield potential high, as stands seem to be good.

Weed control applications are usually finished by August. One weed that’s spread aggressively in recent years is waterhemp. One waterhemp plant has the capacity to produce tens of thousands of seeds; it only takes a couple of plants to infest an entire field. Herbicide applications have contained waterhemp infestations.

Overall, crops in the Peoria area have good yield potential. Farmers were fortunate to have timely spring planting, good germination, and above average growing conditions. Usually by mid-July, dry pockets sprout up throughout the area, but this year we’ve seen fairly consistent rainfall. IBI