Tassle hassle: Corn, soybeans off pace

Silking-flowering stages run well behind usual schedule after oversaturated spring planting season

Corn silking as it should this time of year, although this year’s crop is running well behind the usual pace. (Flickr/Randy Wick)

Corn silking as it should this time of year, although this year’s crop is running well behind the usual pace. (Flickr/Randy Wick)

By Ted Cox

Corn and soybeans continue to try to come from behind in an attempt to salvage the harvest after heavy rains and flooding dramatically slowed spring planting.

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress report released Monday afternoon offered the starkest example in Illinois soybeans. The report found 91 percent of the soybean crop to have sprouted from the ground as of the end of last week, up from 86 percent the week before, and approaching the 99 percent average over the last five years, if not the 100 percent registered last year.

Yet only 12 percent of Illinois soybeans had flowered, up from 2 percent the week before, but well off the 54 percent registered on average over the last five years and the 77 percent reported last year.

So, while corn farmers were credited with staging a furious comeback with late planting, with corn acreage projected to remain level in Illinois at 11 million acres this year, Monday’s report offered a return to realism in how far the crop has to go. Just 19 percent of the Illinois crop had begun to silk as of the end of last week, up from 4 percent the week before, but far behind the two-thirds reported on average over the last five years and the 91 percent at this time last year.

“There is a concern,” Bryce Anderson, DTN senior agriculture meteorologist, told FarmWeekNow.com last week. “We know corn pollination in many areas is going to be a phase that doesn’t kick in until late July or early August because of how slow things were.

“That type of delay means the black-layer phase of the corn kernel, full maturity, probably is not going to occur until late September or early October,” Anderson added. “Over much of the central and eastern Corn Belt, that’s getting into a time frame that’s only about a week ahead of the average first freezing temperatures.”

Some Illinois corn wasn’t even “knee high by the Fourth of July,” an old farm adage that has been comically short of where corn really stands at this time in recent years.

Todd Hubbs, an agriculture economist at the University of Illinois, also called the federal acreage report into question in remarks to FarmWeek. “The corn acreage number was a bit of a shock, but I personally don’t believe that number is correct,” Hubbs said. “We could have seen the base of corn acres expand. Prevent plant acres could be incorporated in that.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty with the acreage numbers and with yield potential,” Hubbs added. “A lot of corn and beans were planted in poor conditions. I think yields will suffer for it.”

The latest Crop Progress report rated 40 percent of the corn crop “fair,” 38 percent “good,” but 14 percent “poor” and an additional 4 percent “very poor.” Some 37 percent of soybeans were rated “fair” and the same 37 percent “good,” but 16 percent were “poor” and 6 percent “very poor.”

Gov. Pritzker urged farmers and all state residents on Monday to report weather-related damages this year to county agencies so that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency can compile data as the state seeks to qualify for federal damage relief. According to the Governor’s Office, the state needs to claim $19 million in damages to qualify — a figure that would appear to be easy for Illinois to reach given the rampant flooding and the estimates being thrown around, including a possible $1 billion nationally in prevent-plant claims on crop insurance.

“While the ultimate decision on our state receiving federal funds lies with Washington, my administration is committed to doing everything in our power to ensure our communities get all resources available to recover,” Pritzker said. “Our state has not received a federal disaster declaration since 2013, and there is no doubt this will be an uphill battle. I urge every resident in every impacted community to report any damage to their local emergency-management agency. We are in this together and the state will stand with all of our communities as we rebuild.”

“Previous agency experience has demonstrated the importance of being as thorough as possible during this initial damage assessment,” said acting IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “Any kind of flood-related damage should be reported to your county emergency-management office. Reporting damage, regardless of whether it is $200 or $20,000, not only helps you and your community, but it has the ability to help other communities across our state. Without a complete picture of the damage caused by this flood, Illinois could miss out on invaluable federal funds that can help our state rebuild following this extensive disaster.”

IEMA is farming out experts to help local agencies compile the data on weather damages, and it has created a website where all residents and business owners can submit an initial damage report online.