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Illinois crop progress

Below-normal temperatures across most of Illinois could be restricting corn and soybean maturation, according to one northeastern Illinois farmer.

"My biggest concern right now is the coolness. We’re losing days that we can never get back," said Steve Pitstick, who raises corn and soybeans on his farm 50 miles west of Chicago near Maple Park. "We’ll probably have a very wet crop to harvest."

According to the Illinois State Climatologist’s office, July tied the record cool mark for the state with an average of 70.3 degrees, the first time average temps had dipped that low since 2009.

The month of July has been a major determinant for crop development during most of the past six years, noted State Climatologist Jim Angel. "In six years, we have experienced the second-warmest and twice, the coldest July on record," Angel blogged on Aug. 1.

Farmers like Pitstick are becoming concerned there won’t be enough propane to dry a bountiful harvest, such as he predicts: "I don’t know if they’ve recovered from the LP shortages of last year. This looks like a big year for corn drying in the northern Corn Belt."

Average soil moisture levels (91 percent adequate) and subsoil moisture supplies (80 percent adequate) in northeastern Illinois are above state averages, according to the July 28 NASS Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report. But too much rain at once has left many farmers in the region dealing with soggy, unproductive "low spots" and other washed out areas in their crop fields.

"We got everything planted very timely in May. We were doing really good until about the 10th of June, when it started raining. We got about 12 inches of rain from June 10 to July 4," Pitstick said. "We’ve got drowned-out areas, we’ve got some nitrogen loss and some stalk issues due to (nitrogen) cannibalization. We’ve lost some areas due to excessive rain."

Because of these problems, Pitstick is not confident his corn or soybean harvest yields will match those of last year. But with "a very good crop" on 95 percent of his acreage, the Maple Park farmer still expects a nice yield.

Statewide, corn silking had reached 94 percent by July 28, 12 percent above the five year average, according to the NASS report. Corn doughing had reached 25 percent, while corn condition was rated at 82 percent good to excellent. Soybeans blooming had reached 83 percent, with 44 percent setting pods.

In addition, headed sorghum was rated at 39 percent, while sorghum turning color reached 13 percent. Seventy-three percent of the state’s oats had been harvested. Alfalfa hay second cutting averaged 92 percent, while 10 percent had completed third cutting, the report stated.

By Tim Alexander

Illinois Correspondent

8/6/2014