Warmer temps allows central Illinois farmers to catch up on planting, but yield could suffer
As a perennial national leader in soybean and corn production, Illinois is a significant exporter of food and feed to worldwide buyers, including many European countries impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Data published by the USDA show that central Illinois, including Peoria and McLean counties, is consistently among the yearly regional leaders in yield and production — both in-state and across the nation.
With the recent break in the cold and wet spring weather that stretched central Illinois farmers’ “planting windows” to their limits, producers have been able to catch up to and exceed the historic state planting date averages for both corn and soybeans, respectively. This comes as good news at a time when worldwide food insecurity, which was profound even before the February invasion of Ukraine, is at a near-historic level.
An increase in prices food producers pay for fertilizers, coupled with the inaccessibility of Ukrainian crop exports, have led to a “potentially dire” situation, according to the United Nations World Food Program, which estimated on Tuesday that as many as 800 million people are now estimated to go hungry each night.
“Weather-related events, in part associated with climate change, have also impacted food availability in many countries and thus contributed to the rise of food insecurity,” according to the UNWFP. In addition, “Conflict is a cause and consequence of hunger. In 2020, conflict was the primary driver of hunger for 99.1 million people in 23 countries.”
According to Patrick Kirchhofer, manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau, central Illinois farmers are now back on track to help feed the world.
“It was a very wet spring that kept many of our farmers from their fields up into May,” said Kirchhofer. “Planting progress is now getting back on track, with most of the crops in our area planted.”
His assessment is echoed by NASS’ May 23 Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report, which estimated total Illinois corn planting at 78 percent complete, which is even with the five-year average and an increase of 23 percent over the week prior. Soybeans, just 38 percent planted by May 16, jumped to 62 percent planted last week-- or five percent more than the usual 57 percent planted by that date.
The spring planting season was anything but routine, noted Mike Shane, who operates a small row crop farm just south of Dunlap (Peoria County) in addition to his job as an agricultural lender for F&M Bank. The second-generation farmer was forced to replant some of his soybeans after rains wiped out a section of his early planted acreage.
“I planted the first 32-acre patch and it started raining that night. I didn’t get it done until 10 days later. We’re actually going back today (May 24) to replant the back 30 acres of beans. It was terrible,” Shane said.
“I switched to corn before I had all my beans done and I planted about 40 acres of corn. We had some 90 degree weather, but then some rain really evened things out. Then we switched back to beans, and then back to corn in between rains. It was hit and miss with three days on, and three days off. You had to be on your toes and ready to go,” he added.
Though statewide planting progress for corn and soybeans is, as of this week, on or ahead of course, late planting does not come without penalties at harvest. Shane is among the farmers that are anticipating lower than average yields for their soybeans, and possibly corn.
“Our area has got to be about 95 percent planted for both corn and soybeans, but there is still soybean replanting going on,” he said. “I think my corn will be okay; I’m anticipating similar (results) as last year. Beans? I’m not going to get 70 or 80 bushel (per acre) beans. I’m going to be in the low to mid 60s, I hope. I don’t see ( a big harvest) happening this year. To get those 70s and 80s beans you have to plant the first week or two of April, and we just didn’t get that (opportunity) this year.”
As a result of the prolonged April showers that kept planters idle in sheds, Illinois corn emergence stood at only 48 percent this week, compared to the five-year average of 60 percent. Nationwide, corn was at 72 percent planted (ahead of the average 68 percent) but just 39 percent of plants had emerged, well behind the usual 51 percent national average.
Soybean emergence in Illinois was estimated at 27 percent, down 8 percent from the state average. Nationally, 50 percent of the soybean crop had been planted (compared to 55 percent average) and just 21 percent had emerged, according to NASS.
A recent study by Professor Emeritus Emerson Nafziger of the University of Illinois found that the optimal planting window for corn and soybeans is relatively wide, but substantial yield penalties for late planting begin in mid-May. The yield penalty for very late planting can be “quite large,” according to Nafziger and Scott Irwin of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economic at the University of Illinois.
“By May 30th, the yield penalty for late planting increases by two to three times in magnitude,” Irwin said in an April 14 article published on the U of I farmdocDAILY website.