R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Corn harvest still off pace

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

A Peoria County farmer comes in from a day in the fields near Mossville on Friday, Sept. 20. The corn and soybean harvests are wrapping up across much of Illinois. (Tim Alexander photo)

In this week’s news roundup for farmers and rural dwellers: though harvest seems to be wrapping up everywhere you look, this year’s progress still lags behind state norms, according to USDA estimates. In other news, experts say the 2017 pumpkin harvest looks great, an Illinois legislator has signed on to important ag trade legislation, and a central Illinois crop application training center announced it will augment its curriculum to educate farmers on proper dicamba stewardship. Please read on…

Corn harvest still off pace

SPRINGFIELD – With summer in the rearview mirror and plenty of days suitable for field work, the 2017 harvest is progressing nicely across Illinois and the Corn Belt. However, corn and soybean harvests are still lagging behind historical averages in the Prairie State, according to the latest USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report.

Though 5.3 days were suitable for field work during the week ending October 22, corn harvested was just 62 percent complete compared to 82 percent complete in 2016. The five-year average for corn is 74 percent. Meanwhile, the soybean harvest gained 14 points, from 63 percent complete on October 15 to 77 percent complete on October 22. This is four percent above last year’s completion rate and four percent above the five-year average for soybeans.

Winter wheat planted was at 70 percent, compared to 64 percent last year, while wheat emerged was at 38 percent, compared to the five-year average of 31 percent. Pasture and range condition was rated 11 percent very poor, 22 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 21 percent good and two percent excellent, the report stated.

After scare, pumpkins doing well

URBANA – A University of Illinois plant pathologist and pumpkin expert said his recommendations played a part in stopping an outbreak of downy mildew from spreading to field pumpkins in Kankakee County and elsewhere. Mahommad Babadoost said despite the mid-August downy mildew scare, the 2017 Illinois pumpkin crop is looking good.

“Don’t hesitate to carve more than one this year,” Babadoost said, in a U of I Department of ACES news release. “There are plenty of pumpkins for everyone.”

Babadoost was not as confident when he found the Kankakee County outbreak and sent out an alert to pumpkin growers, complete with instructions on a mix of fungicides for producers to spray on their crops. Because spores from the fungal pathogen can spread very quickly, he feared area yields could be seriously impacted without proactive measures from producers.

“All of my recommendations are based on local research,” he noted. “Problem-solving in plant pathology must be based on local research, not borrowed information from elsewhere.” Babadoost said his recommendations helped clear the pathogen from the Kankakee County pumpkin field, which led to minimal losses throughout the state.

In a phone call, Morton producer John Ackerman told this columnist that downy mildew had not been present in his Tazewell County pumpkin acreage in 2017. Central Illinois farmers grow much of the canned pumpkin produced in the U.S. under contract with the nearby Nestle-Libby’s processing plant.

Illinois Farm Fact:90 to 95 percent of all pumpkins grown for processing in the U.S. are grown in Illinois. (University of Illinois)  

Duckworth sponsoring ag trade bill

BLOOMINGTON – U.S. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth is co-sponsoring a bill that supports Illinois and U.S. farmers competing in global agricultural markets, Illinois Corn’s Tricia Braid reported last week. The Creating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act boosts funding for the market access (MAP) and foreign market development (FMDP) export promotion programs, which is a top legislative priority of the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA). The programs generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested from 1977 to 2014, according to Illinois Corn, but have not seen a funding increase since the 2002 Farm Bill. Under the legislation co-sponsored by Duckworth, funding for the programs would double over five years.

“Senator Duckworth’s decision to co-sponsor this bipartisan legislation indicates to us that she has a strong understanding of the importance of export markets to Illinois corn farmers, as we export more corn than any other state,” said Justin Durdan, ICGA president. “As we’re bringing in another corn harvest here in Illinois, it is good to know that the senator has our backs when it comes to building export markets.”

Duckworth said that revitalizing the FMDP and MAP programs would “make it easier for Illinois’ farmers and ranchers to find markets for their goods and help ensure that the U.S. remains an international agricultural leader.” (ICGA news)

Applicators seeking dicamba training

BLOOMINGTON – An expert in farm chemical application safety and training says farm organizations, retailers and others will be scrambling to offer training in dicamba safety and stewardship in light of recent EPA label and regulations changes for the controversial in-season herbicide. Allen Summers, president of the Asmark Institute and Asmark-AGCO Applicator Training Center in Bloomington, said he has confidence that Illinois farmers and professional applicators will receive adequate training in time for the 2018 growing season.

“I believe that organizations such as the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association will rise to the challenge of organizing training specific to the dicamba situation. I expect there will be a ‘feeding frenzy’ of organizations wanting to offer the dicamba-specific training in hopes of making money or marketing their equipment or products. I believe there will be a credible effort in each state that will deliver what is needed with the cooperation and support of (dicamba makers) BASF and Monsanto,” Summers said in an email.

Asmark will likely offer enhanced dicamba training not as a stand-alone course, but rather as part of an advanced applicator’s course that would be available in the fall of 2018, at the earliest, according to Summers.


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Corn harvest still off pace–