By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Despite growing disease pressure and rainy and wet conditions that ground the Illinois corn and soybean harvest to a halt the week of October 11-15, most analysts are still optimistic about 2021 crop yields and quality.
“What I’m hearing from our members is that the state as a whole is at a standstill with the recent rainfall. I’m guessing things are going to continue to be slow as rain is predicted for the next few days,” said Jim Tarmann, managing director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, on October 13.
Rainy week aside, statewide soybean yields appear to be on par with or above the 64 bushels per acre (bpa) projected by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), according to Abigail Peterson, lead agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA).
“We got a good start on the soybean harvest this year with mild conditions early on that allowed farmers to get in the fields early. Some farmers are done with the soybean harvest. Driving around the state I see a lot of soybeans still in the field, but overall progress has been good,” said Peterson, an Oregon, Illinois, native and Iowa State University graduate who was named ISA’s first director of agronomy in September.
According to NASS’ October 12 Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report, soybeans harvested had reached 43 percent, compared to the 5-year average of 45 percent. Statewide soybean condition was rated 3 percent very poor, 6 percent poor, 20 percent fair, 49 percent good, and 22 percent excellent.
A lot of fields are yielding dry moisture soybeans of less than 13 percent, Peterson reported, though farmers in wetter areas of the state are checking in beans with moisture contents of 15-17 percent. “With the wet conditions around the state this week, the harvest has slowed down,” Peterson said on October 14. Thousands of acres of double-cropped soybeans remain to be harvested in southern Illinois, she added.
The agronomist noted that late-season sudden death syndrome (SDS) plagued some soybean fields in southern Illinois, particularly in Shelby County. “As I moved north I found more of it spread out. Since it was late season disease, hopefully it won’t be too detrimental to the harvest season,” said Peterson.
“I also found some white mold on soybeans in northern Illinois counties like Bureau, but not at such a pressure it would be detrimental. As far as insects, we are watching for the dectes stem borer but I haven’t heard too many reports out in the field or too many negative effects. I am looking for armyworms and (other insect pests) and haven’t seen much.”
NASS’ estimate of 64 bpa for Illinois soybeans is perhaps too low, Peterson seemed to indicate. “I would definitely say that this is a year that farm yield averages have been coming in a little bit above average. It’s been very positive across the board, and most farmers have been pretty happy,” she said.
While it appears Illinois corn farmers may still be on course to harvest the 214 bpa predicted by USDA-NASS, Tarmann noted that harvest progress, yields and consistency have been spotty across the state.
“There is really no consistency on how much corn or soybeans have been harvested within a region due to varying levels of disease pressure in this year’s corn crop. Resulting standability issues in the upper two-thirds of the state had producers spot harvesting fields where the corn was going down before switching to beans,” Tarmann said.
“Most (southern Illinois) producers report an estimated 20-30 bushel yield loss due to this disease pressure. We have heard soybean yields in this same area to be solid with most reporting to this point having above average yields,” he added.
DTN contributing analyst Joel Karlin reported that notes from crop scouts and traders in Illinois indicate NASS’ estimated 2021 corn yield of 214 bpa is “too high.” At issue: parts of the state are seeing disease pressure from heavy rains, while other regions, most notably northern Illinois, are seeing yields suppressed by a dry finish to the growing season.
As of October 12, corn harvested for grain in Illinois had reached 55 percent, compared to the 5-year average of 46 percent. Corn condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 50 percent good, and 20 percent excellent, according to the latest USDA-NASS crop condition report.