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.

Latest Analysis on the Impacts of Drought on U.S. Agriculture

The USDA has produced some interesting slides for the World Agricultural Outlook Board, showing the current drought overlaid on production areas. The first two are about the U.S. corn production areas, then the soybean areas, and finally the cattle areas. Each pair of slides shows a map of the overlay, and a time series of the area affected by drought.

By July 24, about 89 percent of the corn production area was in drought. That percentage has been climbing steadily since early June. It’s the same story with 88 percent of the soybean production area and 73 percent of the cattle production area in drought.

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Frost Damage to Corn

There is an excellent article in the integrated pest management Bulletin at the University of Illinois by Emerson Nafziger about the damage of frost to corn this April and it’s impact on yield. You can read the full article at http://bulletin.ipm.illinois.edu/article.php?id=1619 

Here are the low temperatures reported last week, sorted from coldest to not so coldest. 

Station Name Low Temp(°F) Month/Day
PAXTON 20 11-Apr
CHAMPAIGN 9 SW 21 11-Apr
PAW PAW  23 11-Apr
JERSEYVILLE 2 SW 23 17-Apr
MT CARROLL 24 11-Apr
SIDELL 5 NW  24 11-Apr
WATSEKA 2 NW 24 11-Apr
LISLE-MORTON ARBORETUM 25 11-Apr
SHABBONA 5 NNE 25 10-Apr
ALTONA 25 11-Apr
MONMOUTH 4 NW  25 11-Apr
NORMAL 4NE 25 11-Apr
CONGERVILLE 2 NW 25 11-Apr
NORMAL 4NE 25 11-Apr
PERRY 6 NW 25 12-Apr
GALENA 26 11-Apr
STOCKTON 3 NNE 26 11-Apr
MARSEILLES LOCK  26 11-Apr
LA HARPE 26 11-Apr
PRINCEVILLE 2W 26 11-Apr
DWIGHT 26 11-Apr
HOOPESTON 1 NE 26 11-Apr
NEOGA 4NW  26 11-Apr
SULLIVAN 26 11-Apr
ELIZABETH  27 11-Apr
KEWANEE 1 E  27 12-Apr
ROCKFORD GTR ROCKFORD AP 27 11-Apr
DE KALB  27 11-Apr
MCHENRY STRATTON L&D 27 11-Apr
MUNDELEIN 4 WSW  27 11-Apr
BENTLEY  27 12-Apr
GALESBURG  27 11-Apr
PRAIRIE CITY 2S  27 11-Apr
CHENOA 27 11-Apr
DANVILLE 27 11-Apr
EFFINGHAM  27 11-Apr
NEWTON 27 11-Apr
PARIS WTR WKS  27 11-Apr
TUSCOLA  27 11-Apr
WINDSOR  27 12-Apr
FREEPORT WWP 28 11-Apr
HENNEPIN 28 12-Apr
MOLINE QUAD CITY INTL AP 28 12-Apr
ROCHELLE 28 11-Apr
ROCHELLE 28 11-Apr
BARRINGTON 3 SW  28 11-Apr
ELGIN  28 11-Apr
MARENGO  28 11-Apr
MORRIS 28 11-Apr
KNOXVILLE  28 11-Apr
BLOOMINGTON 5W 28 11-Apr
DECATUR  28 11-Apr
MINONK 28 11-Apr
OGDEN  28 12-Apr
PONTIAC  28 11-Apr
CARLINVILLE  28 11-Apr
MORRISONVILLE  28 11-Apr
SPRINGFIELD CAPITAL AP 28 11-Apr
CHARLESTON 28 11-Apr
PALESTINE 2W 28 11-Apr
RAMSEY 28 11-Apr
ROBINSON 28 11-Apr
SHELBYVILLE DAM  28 11-Apr
ALEDO  29 11-Apr
CHICAGO BOTANICAL GARDEN 29 11-Apr
OTTAWA 29 11-Apr
ROMEOVILLE LEWIS UNIV AP 29 11-Apr
QUINCY RGNL AP 29 11-Apr
RUSHVILLE  29 11-Apr
URBANA 29 11-Apr
GRIGGSVILLE  29 13-Apr
PITTSFIELD #2  29 12-Apr
SPRINGFIELD #2 29 11-Apr
WHITE HALL 1 E 29 12-Apr
WINCHESTER 29 11-Apr
HIDALGO 3SW  29 11-Apr
PANA 29 11-Apr
MT VERNON 3 NE 29 12-Apr
GENESEO  30 11-Apr
NEW BOSTON DAM 17  30 13-Apr
AURORA 30 11-Apr
JOLIET BRANDON RD DM 30 11-Apr
LITTLE RED SCHOOL HSE  30 11-Apr
PARK FOREST  30 11-Apr
PEORIA GTR PEORIA AP 30 11-Apr
FISHER 30 11-Apr
RANTOUL  30 11-Apr
JACKSONVILLE 2 E 30 12-Apr
OLNEY 2S 30 11-Apr
TRIMBLE 1E 30 11-Apr
VANDALIA 30 11-Apr
CARBONDALE SEWAGE PLT  30 12-Apr
SPARTA 30 11-Apr
FAIRFIELD RADIO WFIW 30 12-Apr
ILLINOIS CITY DAM 16 31 12-Apr
CHANNAHON DRESDEN ISLAND 31 12-Apr
CHICAGO MIDWAY AP  31 11-Apr
CHICAGO MIDWAY AP 3 SW 31 11-Apr
KANKAKEE METRO WWTP  31 11-Apr
FLORA  31 12-Apr
IUKA 31 11-Apr
BELLEVILLE SIU RSRCH 31 12-Apr
DU QUOIN 4 SE  31 12-Apr
ROCK ISLAND L&D 15 32 11-Apr
ROCK ISLAND L&D 15 32 11-Apr
CHICAGO OHARE INTL AP  32 11-Apr
QUINCY DAM 21  32 12-Apr
STREATOR 32 11-Apr
JACKSONVILLE 2 32 11-Apr
CARLYLE RSVR 32 11-Apr
KASKASKIA RIV NAV LO 32 12-Apr
LEBANON  32 12-Apr
SMITHLAND L&D  32 12-Apr
MORRISON 33 17-Apr
GLADSTONE DAM 18 33 11-Apr
BIRDS 2E 33 11-Apr
LAWRENCEVILLE  33 11-Apr
SALEM  33 11-Apr
NASHVILLE 1 E  33 12-Apr
CAIRO 3 N  34 12-Apr
GRAND CHAIN DAM 53 34 12-Apr
BROOKPORT DAM 52 34 12-Apr
ALTON MELVIN PRICE 41 10-Apr
GRAYVILLE  44 10-Apr