R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: ISA debuts weekly crop reports

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Abigail Peterson of Princeton, new conservation agronomy manager for the Illinois Soybean Association, will offer crop updates throughout the growing season for ISA members and others. (ISA photo)

This week’s farm and rural news roundup offers information on moisture-related crop issues turning up in Illinois fields, along with information on Farm-to-School government grants heading to Illinois. We also will share an excellent opportunity to join the Illinois Specialty Growers Association and enjoy a free day at the Illinois State Fair! Please read on …


ISA debuts weekly crop reports

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Soybean Association has begun issuing weekly crop progress reports to members and media types via email. Last week, the report, which is unaffiliated with weekly USDA-NASS crop progress reports, made its debut with Abigail Peterson, ISA conservation agronomy manager, providing commentary.

“With many soybeans emerged by May 30 of this year, the majority of soybeans are well into late blooming and beginning pod stages across Illinois. Not too many pests have been noticeable apart from some Japanese beetle feeding. Looking at the soil surface of no-till or cove crop fields, earthworm middens are not hard to find and decomposers like centipedes are scurrying across residue,” reported Peterson.
Post herbicide applications have been wrapping up and field activities like fungicide applications will be starting,” she added. “Field walking this week I have seen great weed control in cover crop fields. Walking in drowned out areas of the field can be a reminder of how weeds like waterhemp don’t take long to establish.”

ISA named Abigail Peterson of Princeton, Illinois, as their conservation agronomy manager in June. A certified crop adviser, Peterson earned a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from Iowa State University. In her former role as Field Manager for the Soil Health Partnership, funded by the National Corn Growers Association, Peterson developed soil health transition plans, guided agronomic decision-making with cover crop applications to conventional systems, enrolled participants in field trials, and coordinated with multiple state organizations. She has experience conducting field scouting, coordinating soil sampling processes, collecting economic information, and providing outreach to farmer and nonfarmer audiences.


Soybean, corn diseases related to moisture

BLOOMINGTON — In her initial crop report Abigail noted that the variable weather across central Illinois produced anywhere from 4-15 inches of rain over the prior week. Soybean fields subjected to higher volumes of precipitation are in greater risk of moisture-related diseases, the agronomist noted.

“With warm temperatures and saturated soils, disease presence of phytophthora in soybeans has become evident in some parts of the state,” she said, while adding that many northern Illinois counties are experiencing a lack of rain, dry soil conditions and warm temperatures that have led to moderate to severe drought.

Corn is also experiencing disease presence due to excessive rainfall, according to Pioneer field agronomist Matt Montgomery. “We’re already seeing gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight. There’s plenty of humidity,” Montgomery told the Illinois Farm Bureau news service. There have also been reports of tar spot in northern Illinois corn fields.

The excessive moisture led to a decline in crop ratings issued by the USDA. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that the portion of crops rated good to excellent in the state slipped five points the second week of July, to 60 percent for corn, and down seven points to 56 percent for soybeans, with rainfall patterns playing a significant role. Montgomery suggested that some fields may benefit from fungicide applications at VT-R1 stage for corn and R3 for soybeans.


ISGA, IPPA seeking fair volunteers

SPRINGFIELD — Are you interested in helping promote Illinois’ burgeoning specialty crops industry? Do you enjoy visiting the Illinois State Fair? If your answer to both of those questions is yes, then the Illinois Specialty Growers Association has got a deal for you. With the fair less than a month away ISGA is seeking help making their annual state fair farm stand a success. You can help promote the state’s specialty crops by volunteering to serve slushies, ice cream, watermelon and more at their popular food tent. Or you might be able to help with basic food prep or handle cash register transactions.

What will you receive in return? The ISGA is offering FREE admittance to the fair, a parking voucher, ISGA baseball cap and complimentary apple cider slushies, popcorn, ice cream and watermelon during your shift. Sign up to help at bit.ly/ISGAVolunteerSignUp, or learn more at www.specialtygrowers.com.

Also seeking volunteers is the Illinois Pork Producers Association, which needs help at their Illinois State Fair birthing center. To learn more, call the IPPA at 217-529-3100.


USDA awards Farm-to-School grants

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chicago, Champaign and Mattoon will benefit from $12 million in USDA grants that expand the Farm-to-School program. The infusion comes as new data reveals the recent growth in the program; Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of school districts and/or local entities responsible for school meals participated in farm to school activities during school year 2018-19, more than half (57 percent) of which began within the past three years, according to USDA.

In Illinois, the Academy for Global Leadership in southwest Chicago will receive $50,000 to transition to a six-acre campus that will expand organic food production. In the plans are three greenhouses, 10 hoop houses, a learning barn, food forest, community gardens and orchard. Also in Chicago, a turnkey grant of $42,627 will go to Pilot Light to create lessons that deliver agricultural education to students.

In addition, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will receive $47,558 to develop and edible school garden that will be available to the roughly 2,000 K-8 students who attend USD-116 schools. Up to 85 percent of these students qualify for free or reduced school lunch prices. In Mattoon, Fit-2-Serve, Inc will receive $39,877 to move agricultural lessons delivered in the classroom out and into the community.

“The record-breaking Farm-to-School Grants and new data release today both reflect USDA’s commitment to supporting farm to school efforts as a win-win for all involved,” said Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “We’re excited about the growth in farm to school activity across the country and look forward to seeing the impact of this latest round of grants on children, schools, farmers, and the economy alike.” (USDA news)


Illinois Farm Fact:

This year’s Farm-to-School Grants will help expand the access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for children across 45 states and the District of Columbia. (USDA)


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