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Cooler Midwest conditions a godsend for many crops

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Dry, cooler weather allowed for nearly seven days suitable for fieldwork at 7 degrees Fahrenheit below normal temperatures in Indiana and Illinois, according to the Illinois office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

While farmers prepare their harvesting equipment, NASS also reported the states’ corn and soybean maturation is slowed by the cooler temperatures.

Both corn and soybean fields are beginning to dry down from the limited rainfall over the past two weeks. Indiana received barely 4/10 and Illinois just 9/10 of an inch, both below average precipitation.

While both states saw little rain, corn condition was rated 46 percent good in Illinois, and 41 percent in Indiana. Soybean condition was rated 49 percent good in Illinois and 41 percent in Indiana. Pasture and range held at 42 percent fair in Illinois and 38 percent in Indiana.

Troy Clawson, DEKALB/Asgrow Seed district sales manager for southwestern Indiana, says there is no doubt cooler temperatures for nearly six weeks have helped during the reproductive stages of the corn and soybeans.

“Most of southwest Indiana has been dry; in fact, in Washington, Indiana, I recorded the driest August since I moved here in 2001. Yes, because of this dry weather, some farmers are still using irrigation systems, primarily on later-planted soybeans and to a lesser extent, some late corn after the early May floods,” he said.

“What could have been a disaster, with the extremely dry weather and a higher percentage of the crop planted late, has been softened by the cooler temps and, in a few cases, the ability of the farmer to irrigate. How much help this has been is still yet to be determined, but I would guess that the cooler temps have added 5 to 10 percent to the crop yields.”

While USDA continues to forecast quite strong yields, NASS says crop progress and condition is at about 50 percent, compared to 80 percent this time last year. Indiana growers are reporting seeing a fair amount of variation in corn and soybean maturity.

Clawson agrees harvest yields in southwestern Indiana will be variable. “Soil type, planting date and, most importantly, rainfall will be huge in how the field yields are this year. My territory received good rain and (growers) were able to get their crop planted in April with minimal replant. They will be happy and could have a record crop in those areas.

“Other areas have been relatively dry, particularly in early June and August. Some of these areas also have sandy soil types, and they are seeing yields as low as they’ve seen since 2012. Most of the corn that has been harvested thus far was planted early and it all comes down to the factors I already mentioned. I’ve seen record highs and very low yields all in the same fields.

“As we get into later planting dates, I think the yields will drop, unless they were in an area that received well-timed August rains. I see a big drop-off coming in the May planting dates where it has been dry in August,” Clawson noted.

As Jason Keller, a producer in Newton, Ill., began shelling corn Sept. 15, he noticed a definite variability and believes it will continue throughout harvest season.

“We started on some hilly ground and were averaging about 140 to 170 bushels (per acre) on corn. I believe we will see variance in yield and in our varied soil types. Our corn yield monitor ranges from 10 to 250. The sand knob was the 10 and the good ground is the 250. It makes for a whopper of an average.”

Keller said he never likes to make a guess on beans, but hopes he still averages 50 bushels per acre.

Cold, dry weather also contributed to nearly six days available for Michigan producers’ fieldwork. The state’s NASS office says some crop stress occurred in northern Michigan locations and those producers are concerned about frost damage to late-maturing crops.

Some corn silage chopping and seed corn harvest began, but many farmers are waiting for sun and heat to help the corn ripen and assist the dry-down process.

While traditional crops are wanting more sun and heat, Michigan’s fruit harvest welcomes the cooler nighttime temperatures, especially for color development. Fruit size, maturity and crop loads were reported to be variable due to the long bloom period in the spring, damage caused by the May 8 freeze and prevailing dry summer weather.

Apples are bountiful and the peach, plum and pear harvests are generally good. Fall red and black raspberries and blackberries gathering continues, while blueberry harvest is mostly complete except for those fields that are needing supplemental irrigation