Many Peoria area farmers were pleasantly surprised as their combines began rolling through the fields this fall. Grim yield expectations turned into a minor sigh of relief as both corn and soybean yields were better than expected—although still lower than what was harvested in the area the past couple of years, particularly corn.
Why were the corn and bean yields better than forecast? After all, we had more than 40 days that registered at least 90 degrees or more. Peoria was one of the driest locations in Illinois through mid-July. We were more than 10 inches below average in rainfall late this summer. And yet, yields held up reasonably well.
We did have plenty of precipitation last winter, which recharged subsoil moisture heading into the spring planting season. As May and June turned dry, plant roots ran deeper into the soil searching for moisture. The dry spring forced corn and soybean plants to expand their rooting zone, which is usually a big benefit later in the season. Strong roots also created better plant stability when harvest arrived.
Although August also witnessed its share of 90-degree days, August and early September were accompanied by more generous rainfall. The soybean crop seems to have faired much better than the corn crop due to the more moisture-laden second half of the growing season. Soybeans are later maturing and, therefore, more dependent on late season rains. Soybeans did yield less as compared to last year, but it wasn’t as dramatic as corn.
With the early summer drought taking a heavier toll on the corn, it looks like the corn yield will be down 40 to 50 bushels as compared to last year. The critical weather month for corn is July. Why? Pollination occurs during this month. As dry and hot as the weather was, the corn crop still pollinated incredibly well. Good pollination created the kernels on the ear to still allow a respectable harvest this fall.
One aspect that may have been overlooked in the higher than expected corn and soybean yields was the improved genetics in seed technology. Over the past decade, the seed industry has taken a giant leap forward in developing corn and soybean seed that can withstand attacks by insects, diseases, weeds, and drought. This past summer’s drought would’ve had a more obvious reduction in yields if the seed genetics from just 10 years ago were planted this past spring.
There was information released this summer announcing the seed industry is developing drought-resistance corn. According to this past summer’s results, it looks like they have a good start in giving farmers a safety net when a dry pattern takes hold. IBI