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Angie Peltier

Angie Peltier
Former Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture

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Hill and Furrow

Current topics about crop production in Western Illinois, including field crops research at the NWIARDC in Monmouth.
Figure. Drought damaged alfalfa in Southwestern Wisconsin, July 7, 2012.
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Nation- state- and region-wide crop conditions

Nation-wide crop conditions

Corn. The July 9th USDA Crop Progress Report summarized crop conditions for corn and soybean in 18 states throughout the continental US. For corn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana are in the worst shape, with 72, 61 and 61 percent of the crop, respectively, in poor or very poor condition. Minnesota and North Dakota have the best crop conditions, with only 5 percent of the crop in poor or very poor condition. The largest (and adjacent) two corn producing states, Illinois and Iowa have very different crop conditions, with 48 and 18 percent of the crop, respectively, in poor or very poor condition.

Soybean. For soybean, Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana have the worst conditions, with 62, 54, and 51 percent of the crop, respectively, in poor or very poor condition. Minnesota and North Dakota have the best conditions with 7 and 6 percent of the crop, respectively, in poor or very poor condition. Illinois and Iowa, again, have very different conditions, with 42 and 15% of the crop, respectively, in poor or very poor condition.

Illinois and Western Illinois conditions

Soil Moisture. The Illinois Department of Agriculture released an Illinois Weather & Crops report on July 9th. Soil moisture conditions are bleak state-wide. Only 4 percent of the state has adequate topsoil moisture. Overall, 96 percent of the topsoil and 93 percent of the subsoil in the state is either short or very short of moisture. In the Western Illinois crop reporting district, 70 percent of the topsoil is very short, 27 percent is short, and only 3 percent has adequate moisture. Subsoil conditions are no better, with 74 percent of the acreage very short, 21 percent short, and only 5 percent with adequate moisture conditions. Southern Illinois is experiencing the worst conditions in the state with extreme drought conditions resulting in complete crop losses in much of the region.

The Western IL crop reporting district is currently under either moderate or severe drought conditions (Figure). The NWIARDC has historically enjoyed very high yields. Although cropping conditions are not ideal, the deep, productive soils at the NWIARDC have insulated us from the more extreme crop stress that others in the state and region have been experiencing. Take a look at pictures of drought stressed corn and alfalfa in Southwestern Wisconsin (Figures).

Crop Progress. Statewide, corn silking has progressed faster than in any of the past 10 years, with 77 percent of the crop silked by July 8th. In the Western crop reporting district, crop progress is further along that the statewide average. Statewide, 7 percent of the corn has reach the dough stage, while in in the Western district, 88 percent of the corn has silked and 14 percent has reached the dough stage. Statewide, 42 percent of the soybeans have bloomed and 6 percent are setting pods, while in the Western reporting district, 59 percent have bloomed and 13 percent are setting pods.

Drought stress in crops

Agronomists throughout the country have been writing about the potential effects of the hot, dry weather conditions on corn and soybean yields.

Corn. Dr. Emerson Nafziger, Agronomist at the University of Illinois, recently wrote about the potential effects of the hot weather on crop development. He expects pollen shed to occur over fewer days than if plants were exposed to cooler weather. The rolled leaves that can be observed in the late afternoon and poor leaf color are also indicators of stress.

Although early estimations of kernel fertilization may not indicate survival throughout the growing season, it is a way to determine how the dry soil conditions and hot weather may have affected kernel establishment. To estimate kernel fertilization, Dr. Nafziger says to remove husks approximately one week after silking begins. The silks that detach easily when tugged are attached to fertilized kernels while those that remain attached are likely not attached to fertilized kernels. More precise estimation of potential yields will be possible later in the month during the grain filling period.

Soybean. Although most folks in Illinois tend to focus on corn conditions, soybeans are also stressed this year. Flowering takes place for a much longer period (3x longer) than in corn, spreading out risks. Dry soil conditions can result in more of both flower and pod abortion than in a typical year. Along the tour of Warren County that I get on my morning commute, it appears that canopies have finally closed. Only time will tell how many pods will be retained, how many seeds develop, and how well the seeds will fill out in these stressed plants. Dr. Nafziger will likely address the affect of the drought on soybean yield potential during his talk at the upcoming NWIARDC Field Day.

Corn and Soybean as forages

Drs. Stephen Barnhart and Andy Lenssen of Iowa State University recently wrote about the decision to use drought damaged crops (corn and soybean) as forages in recent Integrated Crop Management News newsletters. University of Illinois Commercial Agriculture Educator Robert Bellm also recently wrote about using corn as forage and the importance of testing stalks for nitrate concentrations to avoid nitrate toxicity.

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