The 2011 crop season has already been quite eventful. When farming in northern Illinois, the goal is to start planting by April 15th. Due to an unusually cold and wet spring, we were not able to get out in the fields until May 1st. Even then, we had to carefully determine which farms to plant, as they were not all dried out. Yields are threatened by the late planting start which means farm revenue is already affected even before planting is complete.
We plant 2,500 acres of row crops, corn and soybeans, which usually takes three weeks. This spring it took six weeks from our normal starting point until completion. The result of late planting is a late harvest with crops that have higher moisture levels than normal, which will incur higher drying costs in order to store it safely.
In a normal year, the root mass goes deep enough into the soil to anchor the plant for wind protection and will also draw moisture from deep in the soil in case of a drought. All the rain we have experienced this year has caused the soil to be so saturated that the root mass does not have to go very deep in the soil which makes it vulnerable to wind and drought.
After the immense rainfall, we are now experiencing a long period of dry weather and excessive heat. The yield impact of this kind of weather is about a 10-15% yield decrease. We monitor the crops daily for signs of stress, but Mother Nature will eventually have the final say.
We have also experienced some very strong winds, 70 – 80 mph. Strong winds have the potential of breaking the corn off above the roots, which destroys the plant entirely. They can also lessen the yield because it can deform the plant to point where maximum yield potential is not reached.
While weather is always an unknown factor, the tools that we have today and the seed technology at our disposal helps negate the potential yield loss that generations before us did not have the access to.
Big Rock, Ill.