Clouds and Corn

Storm clouds hover over one part of a field near Mascoutah in St. Clair County, while sunshine bakes the other side in 96-degree heat. That has been the story in much of Illinois this summer.

NAT WILLIAMS, THE SOUTHERN NEWS SERVICES

By mid-July, crops in Illinois were either doing just fine or headed for trouble, depending on where you park your tractor.

Many growers in the northern counties were seeing good conditions and robust growth of corn and soybeans. In other parts of the state, it was a different story.

“Overall, conditions for northern Illinois are pretty good,” Monsanto agronomist Jim Donnelly said July 13. “That contrasts with what they’re seeing in Southern Illinois. Northern Illinois has gotten pretty beneficial rainfalls.”

Donnelly is based in Bureau County.

Adam Epplin, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat in Randolph and Perry counties, was, like many farmers in Southern Illinois, eagerly looking to the sky for some much-needed rain.

He’s concerned about his corn getting enough moisture. It could be worse if the corn wasn’t in a no-till system, he said.

“All our corn, just recently, started curling really bad. I even saw some signs of firing on some of it,” Epplin said.

“Our corn was planted a little bit late. It’s just now starting to tassel. Most of it is no-till. I like to believe that the no-till held moisture a little bit longer than some of the neighbors with conventional till.”

Many areas of the state were inundated with floodwaters in early May. That resulted in extensive replanting. Gerry Rottmann, an agronomist with a farming operation based in the Madison County community of Moro, estimates that as much as 35 percent of the corn planted south of Illinois 16 had to be replanted because of the flooding.

“We had more replant than I can remember,” Rottmann said.

Now, much of the marginal, early planted corn that was left in the fields is doing better than the replanted acreage. Rottmann attributes that to the more extensive root system that developed. The later-planted corn also looked good prior to the dry spell that hovered over many farms. Now, all of it is thirsty.

“We had beautiful stands with the replant,” he said. “The early planted corn that we kept, we thought that it wouldn’t do well because it had an impaired root system and was under stress for weeks. We thought the late corn might really do well, but it doesn’t look good now. If we get blessed with rain, that may be saved. Anything planted before Easter looks great.”

Donnelly said crops in his northern Illinois neighborhood are maturing at nearly the same pace as in an average year, though they may be slightly behind schedule. That’s due to wet conditions in early spring.

“As far as growing degree days, we’re pretty much right on par,” he said. “Maybe slightly behind average. That’s because a lot of the crops were planted later.”

In general, crops are clean in the region. Farmers, however, will likely be dealing with some disease and insect outbreaks in the near future.

“Right now, we’re sitting pretty light on disease pressure. I expect that to increase up here pretty soon, next one to two weeks because of all the rainfall we’ve had,” Donnelly said. “Japanese beetles have been the prime pest the last couple of weeks, mostly in beans. I haven’t seen damage in corn, but we don’t have much tasseling or silking of corn here yet.”

In Southern Illinois, trouble was already calling.

“We all need rain very badly; we’re extremely dry,” Rottmann said. “In lighter soils, crops are suffering. I’m afraid we’re not going to get the fill we normally expect.”

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