A Publication of WTVP

The 2005 crop season will be recorded as hot and dry for the tri-county area. We aren’t alone, as most of Illinois has been in the same weather pattern. Only the extreme southern parts of Illinois, the northwestern part of the state, and a few isolated locations scattered throughout Illinois may harvest average crops.

The drought this year is unusual and unlucky for most Illinois farmers, as we seem to be a desert island in the midst of wetlands and marshes. Reports indicate surrounding states will harvest more corn and soybeans per acre than Illinois farmers, with the exception of Missouri.

Mid-August statewide estimates put the corn crop at 115 bushels per acre and the soybean crop at 38 bushels per acre for farmers in Illinois. Last year’s record breaking yields for Peoria County farmers came in at an average of 192 bushels of corn per acre and 55 bushels of soybeans per acre.

Our neighbor to the west, Iowa, is pegged to harvest nearly 50 bushels more per acre of corn and 10 more bushels of soybeans per acre. Even the drought-prone states of the Great Plains are all forecast to harvest significantly more corn on a per-acre basis.

The Peoria area crops held on remarkably well most of the summer, considering our lack of rainfall and string of 90-degree days. We did have decent moisture last winter that recharged the subsoil and sustained the crops through the spring and early summer. Hurricane Dennis was a welcome site, as it barreled up through the Gulf States in early July. It looked as though Peoria was sure to get a much-needed soaking from an unexpected early season hurricane that dumped several inches and flooded the southern states. As it turned out, conditions were so dry in Illinois that by the time it reached Peoria, only the remnants remained of the storm, and northern Illinois counties were left out completely. The southern third of the state received some beneficial rains from the hurricane, and it enabled their crop to hold on for several more days.

As drought conditions took hold in late June, farmers had important management decisions to make. Dry, wet, cold, and hot weather all bring their own variety of pest and diseases. This year’s dry pattern was a precursor for an increase in spider mites in the soybean crop, as several farmers had to sink more dollars into a deteriorating crop.

If there’s a dim light at the end of the tunnel for this year’s soybeans, it seems the dry weather has held the much-discussed soybean rust disease at bay. Farmers were busy attending workshops and sessions last winter preparing for the onslaught of rust spores migrating from South America via hurricanes. Soybean rust didn’t happen.

For the most part, this year’s crop is still uncertain, although it’s certain that it won’t compare to last year’s yields. Combines equipped with yield monitors will be jumping all over the place as sporadic yield differences are going to take place in the same field, and the value of dark, high organic soil will be amplified this year. IBI