As of mid-May, most of the corn is planted in Peoria County, and several farmers have started planting soybeans. Weather reports indicate the drought is over in Peoria County, as we’ve received some timely rains at planting. They were ideal rains; most fell slowly and were able to soak into the soil without excessive runoff.

This year’s corn and soybean planting has taken another step in the direction of biotechnology. Ten years ago, Roundup Ready soybeans were the buzz in the farm community. Roundup Ready corn has taken root this year, as many farmers are experimenting with the genetically enhanced hybrid corn seed. The corn seed basically is bred with a gene that can tolerate Roundup herbicide.

Even with better seed corn, rain still remains one of the primary ingredients to growing corn. In 2005, 120,000 acres of corn were planted in Peoria County. Tazewell County had 156,000 acres planted, and Woodford County farmers planted 150,000 acres of corn. Peoria County took the brunt of the drought, as corn yields averaged 119 bushels per acre. In fact, only 12 other counties in Illinois—out of 102—had lower corn yield averages than Peoria County. Corn yields averaged 142 bushels per acre and 144 bushels per acre in Tazewell and Woodford counties, respectively.

In 2004, when the only extra ingredient was more rain, Peoria County averaged 192 bushels per acre, followed by 187 bushels and 182 bushels per acre from Tazewell and Woodford counties. The saying “rain makes grain” has been proven true the last couple of years: same soil, same fertilizer, same machinery—only rain was added.

There’s a very bright spot for corn: ethanol. The corn-based fuel has been at the forefront of national news during the past several months for many reasons. High petroleum-based fuel prices is the obvious reason. Amazingly, some people are blaming ethanol for our high fuel prices. But ethanol actually is adding to our nation’s fuel supply. Numerous ethanol plants have been built, and more plants are being built or are in the planning stages as you read this—including new ethanol plants at Pekin, Canton, and Galva. At least two dozen groups in Illinois are in various planning stages and development of new ethanol plants.

USA-raised ethanol has lessened our dependence on foreign oil. It’s given a boost to the Midwest economy. Ethanol burns cleaner and keeps the air we breathe and the water we drink cleaner.

As ethanol production increases, we need more gas stations that offer E-85 (85 percent ethanol blend). Consumers need to purchase flexible fuel vehicles, which can burn petroleum-based fuel or an 85 percent fuel blended with ethanol. Consumers also need to be conscious of where they purchase their fuel and make purchases from gas stations that support renewable fuels and our local economy. IBI