A Publication of WTVP

The 2004 harvest was excellent in the Peoria area. Corn yields were similar to last year, and soybeans were much improved over the 2003 harvest. Once again, the 2004 summer was cool compared to normal summers. Only a handful of 90-degree days visited the Peoria area; most days stayed in the 80s. Just as crucial were the cool nights. We've seen unusually cool nights the past two years, and this seems to be a key ingredient for an abundant harvest. There wasn't a lot of precipitation, but timely rains were just enough to keep the crop in excellent condition.

Typical thoughts are that corn needs precipitation in July, and soybeans require rain in August to establish a respectable fall harvest. That's true, but the rains we had this August surely added to the corn yield through the increase in kernel size.

The statewide average corn yield was estimated at 180 bushels per acre, which would be a new state record. The estimated nationwide corn yield was forecast at 11.6 billion bushels, which is also a record. This is around a 155 bushel per acre average across the U.S.

Many, if not most, grain elevators had to pile corn outside this fall due to the good harvest. This is often the case in the Peoria area, but the higher yields in the southern half of the state caught elevators by surprise, and the large surplus caused some delays in harvest and storage for some farmers.

The average Illinois forecast for soybeans is 49 bushels per acre, with the U.S. average pegged around 42 bushels per acre. The total U.S. production will exceed 3 billion bushels, which can be attributed to the August rains.

In July and August, crop scouts were concerned with corn rootworm. Corn root systems seemed to be fragile, and the fear of strong winds blowing down the corn crop was on the minds of many farmers. Although some fields created harvest headaches, most corn plants were left standing as we experienced an ideal September.

It's not all roses with the bumper crop. With the excellent harvest come much lower prices. Corn prices that hovered around $3 a bushel last spring dropped below $2, and beans that topped out at more than $10 a bushel just six months ago are now half that price. Marketing crops is always a challenge for farmers, and this year was no exception. It's tough to sell a crop you've just planted-especially after the slim 2003 soybean harvest, which caught many producers by surprise.

What do these excellent yields mean? It's a huge plus for the Illinois economy. Larger yields typically mean more dollars will be pumped into the economy for energy needs in transporting more bushels, processing more grains, and producing more end products such as ethanol and biodiesel. With petroleum prices more than $50 a barrel in October, ethanol production and usage becomes even more attractive. IBI