Corn and Soybean Conditions in Illinois Are Not as Good as Last Two Years

According to the USDA, corn and soybean conditions in Illinois are not as good as the last two years.

The USDA NASS site has lots of interesting agricultural data, if you know where to look. One of the great reports they put out every week are the crop conditions in graphical form. Just click on a state and go.

In this first graph, you can see the corn crop conditions compared to earlier years. The percent in good to excellent for 2015 is less than 2013 and 2014. It is a little better than 2011, which was hot and dry in places. It was better than 2012 when we had the full blown drought. The second panel shows you the crop conditions in all categories throughout the 2015 growing season. And finally you can see the crop stages this year, compared to last year and the 5-year average.

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Moderate Drought in Western Illinois

Yesterday, the US Drought Monitor has introduced “moderate drought” into far western Illinois. Most droughts move slow and take 3-6 months to develop. However, sometimes they can move very fast if conditions are right, leading to the term “flash drought”. This situation appears to be developing in parts of western Illinois now.

We have the two necessary ingredients in place for a flash drought. One was the exceptionally dry weather over the last 60 days. The other was the warmer than average temperatures over the last two weeks, which drove up the water use by crops. See the previous post on this.

The timing was bad for both corn and soybeans.  Earlier this week, the USDA NASS report for Illinois indicated that 13% of the corn was rated poor to very poor, and that 12% of the soybeans were rated poor to very poor. In a trip to Springfield yesterday, I would say that the quality of the corn ranged widely within the same fields. Corn planted in the low spots was in bad shape due to poor root development, but looked better in the well-drained areas.

Flash droughts are harder to identify and monitor because our usual drought-monitoring tools move too slowly to pick the rapidly-changing conditions. The impacts are usually confined to agriculture in flash drought. Most stream flows, lake levels, and ground water levels have not been impacted by these conditions so far.

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The Impact of Cool Weather on Corn and Soybeans in Illinois

Emerson Nafziger, the well-known agronomy professor at the University of Illinois, has an interesting article on the impacts of the cool weather and late start to corn and soybeans in Illinois in the U of I Integrated Pest Management “the Bulletin”. He starts out by saying,

Late planting and weather that continues to be cooler than normal into August has many wondering if the corn and soybean crops will reach maturity and harvest moisture within a reasonable time this fall. Crop conditions remain good for both crops, but crop development, including pod formation and filling in soybean and grain fill in corn, remains well behind normal. Corn is 10 days to 2 weeks behind normal, and soybeans are 2 to 3 weeks behind normal. The number of days behind will “stretch” as the weather cools, so late crops get even later. Ten days behind in mid-August will be become 15 or 20 days behind in mid-September, even if temperatures are normal. (read more) …

Currently, the average temperature for the first 12 days of August in Illinois was 1.7 degrees below average. The temperatures over the next five days are expected to be about 6 degrees below average, according to the NWS. The 6-10 and 8-14 day forecasts look a little better with near-average temperatures in northern and central Illinois. However, cooler-than-average temperatures are expected to continue in southern Illinois.

The new NWS monthly and season outlooks for September and the next 12 months will be coming out on Thursday.  

Here are the early, late, and average frost and freeze dates for Illinois.

Abnormally Dry Weather Creeps into Western Illinois

The latest US Drought Monitor has an area of “abnormally dry” conditions in western Illinois. This does not mean drought but it means that it is an “area of interest” to paraphrase what they say on TV when they have suspicions about someone but have no hard evidence.

In this particular case, the only evidence are widespread watering in towns and stressed corn and soybeans – especially the late planted fields with shallow root systems.

Rainfall amounts in those areas have been small and widely scattered (second figure). For example, Quincy airport has received only 0.25 since July 1. Combined with the high rates of evapotranspiration in July, roughly two-tenths of an inch per day, this situation can lead to the rapid withdrawal of topsoil moisture. Other areas in north-central Illinois may be candidates for the “abnormally dry” status in coming weeks if the rains do not return.

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USDA Report Reflects Impact of Drought in Illinois

Last week the Illinois office of the National Agriculture Statistics Service released their report on crop yields in Illinois. The full report can be found here.

As expected, the Illinois corn yield for 2012 was only 105 bushels per acre, 52 bushels below last year. They noted that this was the lowest yield since 1988, when the average yield was only 73 bushels per acres. Because of the severe conditions of the corn crop, almost twice as many acres were harvested for silage in 2012 than in 2011.

Illinois soybean yield for 2012 was 43.0 bushels per acre, down 4.5 bushels from 2011. This was the lowest soybean yield since 2003, when the average yield was only 37.0 bushels per acre. While too late to do much good for corn, rains in the second half of August and the remains of Hurricane Isaac over Labor Day weekend may have provided some benefit to soybeans.

The one bright spot in the Illinois report was winter wheat production. The yield in 2012 was 63 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from 2011. However, only 660,000 acres were seeded in the fall of 2011, which is down 140,000 acres from the previous fall. I suspect the decline was due in part to the already dry conditions experience in southern Illinois – the primary production area of the state.