A Publication of WTVP

Corn planting finally made significant progress in the Peoria area, as the first extended dry spell came the second week in May. Farmers were dodging rain showers through April and the first week of May as planting progress was behind the average pace—particularly of the last three years. Even though most of the hybrid seed corn was planted a week or two later, there is still potential for excellent yields depending on how the rest of the 2007 growing season develops.

Farmers in the southern states normally plant corn several weeks ahead of central Illinois farmers. With higher corn prices surfacing last fall and continuing into the spring planting season, farmers to the south dedicated more acreage to corn primarily at the expense of cotton acreage. I spoke with an individual at the Mississippi Farm Bureau and he indicated that the northern part of the state did lose their first crop of corn to the freeze, but that it has been replanted and now they are worried about dry weather. High corn prices have definitely shifted significant acreage to corn throughout the U.S.

The cold snap that tore through the mid-section of the country in April did make some changes to some farmers’ plans and their checkbooks. Although the freezing temperatures didn’t have much of an impact for Peoria area farmers, since crops were not planted yet, it did have a major impact on farmers in southern Illinois. Specifically, the fruit crop had major damage. The three weeks of warmer than usual weather in March, caused fruit trees to blossom. Then, succeeding nights in the mid-to-low twenties froze the blossoms. Peach and apple trees can afford to lose as much as 80 percent of their blossoms and still produce a full crop. Growers typically welcome a “light” freeze to thin out the crop but the freeze was too much for many southern Illinois orchards.

The United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service publishes weekly crop progress reports in each state during the growing season and once a month during the winter. To outline the widespread damage to fruit, the Tennessee Field Office reported that 96 percent of their peach crop was in very poor condition and 75 percent of their apple crop was in very poor condition after the first week of May.

With the warm March temperatures, the wheat and hay crop also got an early start on spring growth. As far as the hay (alfalfa and clover), most of the plants should have survived, but farmers experienced a lower yield on the first cutting. The small amount of wheat in the Peoria area will not see much damage, since growth was minimal. But in southern Illinois (below Mt. Vernon), some wheat had severe damage and fields were torn up and planted to either corn or soybeans. Most of the soft red winter wheat in Illinois is planted below Interstate 70.

As usual, the growing season will once again be interesting with many twists, turns and adjustments along the way. IBI