As combines began to roll across some Illinois corn and soybean fields in early September, farmers encountered different conditions from north to south.

Harvest has been in full swing in some areas of Southern Illinois since the first week of September. Early yield numbers have been across the board.

“Variability is the name of the game, from field to field, farm to farm and county to county,” said Michael Biethman, grain originator at Gateway FS in Red Bud.

As usual, those farming the Mississippi River bottoms were among the first to get corn out of the ground. Biethman has heard a wide range of reports from them.

“There are parts of their fields where yield monitors read zero, and parts where they read 200,” he said.

Much of the success or failure of corn has been dependent on rain. Heavy rainfall that caused widespread flooding across many areas of the state in May led to substantial replanting. And dry weather during critical stages of growth in many places stunted the crop.

Craig Kilby, an agronomist with Beck’s Hybrids, hasn’t heard of major problems with pests, though he has seen evidence of white mold in soybeans in northern portions of the state, and some southern rust in southern counties, where temperatures were higher.

“Typically, we find white mold in soybeans as we move north,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything of major consequence. There’s been very little sudden death. In corn, there are some locations with southern rust in areas south where we had warmer weather. But cooler temperatures over the past four or five weeks slowed that development. Nothing serious in the disease category or insects.”

Grain elevators were getting into harvest mode as grain began to trickle in. Joe Thompson of Alliance Grain Co. in Gibson City said some early corn was the only thing arriving in early September.

“Just a couple fields were harvested, and they were 101-day corn,” Thompson said on Friday, Sept. 15. “Everybody else is waiting. What we did get in, moisture was running about 25 percent. We’ve had about 40,000 bushels total, across 13 locations, so we really haven’t gotten started at all.”

Biethman said Gateway FS grain elevator in Red Bud hasn’t received much grain because many farmers were putting early harvested corn in their own bins for storage.

“Overall, the early consensus is that it’s better than expected,” he said. “But expectations were low.”

John Pike, a crop consultant from Marion, hadn’t seen much grain harvested in Southern Illinois, other than some counties in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the state.

“Around Williamson County and up the I-57 corridor, there hasn’t been a lot of harvest going on,” Pike said. “In the Coulterville and Sparta area, they got hit with some very dry weather. Yields are not looking strong there.”

Thompson said early indications are lower-than-average yields.

“Yields will be down a little bit from last year,” he said. “We were short on rain for most of August. Then we had a couple 5-inch rains in different locations. But it was too late to do much good.”

Nat Williams writes for Illinois Farmer Today, a Lee Enterprises sister publication of The Southern.