By STEVE BINDER
URBANA, Ill. — Like most seasons, weather conditions at key times this year played a significant role in what growers ultimately plant and harvest. While the two previous growing seasons were among the worst – flood conditions plaguing much of the Midwest in 2011, and one of the worst droughts hit last year – this season poses some difficult problems, too.
Wetter-than-normal conditions, along with colder-than-normal temperatures, forced many growers in Illinois into late planting for corn, and some into switching altogether to soybeans.
Overall, the expected total for Illinois corn will be about 12.25 million acres this year, compared to 12.8 million last year, a reflection both of this year’s wet spring and last year’s ideal early weather conditions. Those numbers come courtesy of the USDA’s semi-annual crop report at the end of June; an updated report is due at the end of this month, and should include more actual acreage numbers.
Approximately 12.2 million acres of corn were harvested last season, while the USDA report projects 11.9 million acres of harvestable corn this year. Yields, however, are projected to be up compared to last year because going into mid-July, weather conditions have been ideal for corn growth.
Wet pockets in some parts of Illinois during the last two weeks of June worried some, but it appears most of the crop so far has come out looking healthy.
“While getting rainfall in June is certainly preferable to getting little or none as happened in Illinois in 2012, standing water and wet soils can badly damage a rapidly growing corn crop,” said Emerson Nafziger, a crop sciences professor at the University of Illinois.
“We saw this in parts of Illinois when heavy rain fell in late June of 2010. This year’s crop was planted later and is not nearly as far along as was the crop that year.”
Even with rainfall totals of 3-6 inches during the past week of June in some parts of the state, good color in the leaves meant early nutrient uptake was good, and the corn crop recovered well after being in wet ground at an early stage. Nafziger said. “We expect the root system to recover nicely.”
He explained there is not much evidence hat reduced photosynthetic rates have much effect on yields, at least if it occurs more than 1-2 weeks before tasseling.
“In years when June is wet, a common question is whether or not the crop might run out of nitrogen, leaving the crop short,” he said. “Some producers have already applied more than normal amounts, thinking that some had been lost under wet conditions in April and May.”
Soybean acres planted in Illinois are expected to total about 9.4 million this year, compared to 9.05 million last year. Harvested acres of beans are projected to be 9.35 million this year, compared to 8.92 million last year.
Since 2010, the Illinois soybean total has increased steadily each year after growers plant new beans following another crop, usually wheat; 7 percent of the state’s soybean take will come from beans planted and grown on just-harvested ground.
According to the USDA report, overall, Illinois growers are expected to plant about 23.11 million acres of all crops this year, compared to the previous two years’ actual totals of 23.19 million and 22.95 million, respectively.
Meanwhile, on the market side, prices for corn and soybeans likely will be under pressure because the USDA’s report anticipated a larger supply of both crops this year. “The period for determining yields is just beginning, with July and August weather critical for both crops,” said Darrel Good, an ag economist with the U of I.
“Based on current crop condition ratings and near-term weather forecasts, prospects for yields likely exceed current market expectations, particularly for corn. If weekly condition ratings remain high, new-crop prices are expected to remain under pressure.”