R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Planters out in force as spring arrives

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

With the arrival of spring, rural areas and communities are seeing an uptick in the number of large farm implements sharing the roads with passenger vehicles. Last week’s beautiful weather brought out a number of farmers looking to get an early start on spring planting. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

Springtime means sprayers and planting equipment are out in force across Illinois. Springtime also means tornado time, unfortunately. We have reports on the start of planting season, Illinois farmers’ efforts to aid their tornado-stricken colleagues in neighboring Indiana, and ways farmers can avoid off-target field chemical applications. Please read on …


Planters out in force as spring arrives

URBANA — Sprayers, tractors and planters are in the fields and on the roads across most of Illinois with the arrival of spring, noted Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford in his Friday, April 14 Crop Central Weather Update for the University of Illinois farmdoc team. Not only did spring arrive forcefully, he noted, but the week gave many of us a quick refresher on summer with highs in the 80s across much of the state.

“What a change this week as spring gave way to a sneak peak of summer. Seven-day average temperatures were in the mid- to high 50s statewide, 4 to 15 degrees above normal. Daily highs reached into the 80s all across the state on multiple days this week, combined with unusually low humidity. Potential evaporation amounts exceeded two-tenths of an inch on multiple days this week, about twice as much as normal for this time of the year. If you had an unusual nosebleed, or just very dry skin this week, you can thank the very low humidity.

“Not a single point in the state had any measurable precipitation this week. I’m not yet sure exactly how many times that has happened before, but regardless it is quite a rarity in Illinois. The combination of warmth, low humidity, and no precipitation quickly dried topsoils across the state, and kick-started spring fieldwork in a big way.”

It was quite an improvement over the week ending April 9, when the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service rated just 2.5 days suitable for fieldwork. As of April 9, corn planted in Illinois was at 1 percent, even with the five-year average. Winter wheat headed was 1 percent, compared to the five-year average of 2 percent.

Topsoil moisture supply was rated zero percent very short, 6 percent short, 73 percent adequate, and 21 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supply was rated 1 percent very short, 6 percent short, 67 percent adequate, and 26 percent surplus, according to the April 9 NASS report.


Illinois farmers aid in tornado relief

LEXINGTON — Earlier in April, multiple tornadoes hit Indiana communities both south and north of Indianapolis, leaving at least three people in Sullivan County dead and hundreds of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed, the Indy Star reported. Within hours, volunteers associated with the Lexington-based Fellowship of Christian Farmers had mobilized to help their eastern neighbors.

“A wonderful group of volunteers came from the Freeport, Illinois area, attendees of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin. We also had a couple of volunteers from Mississippi, who worked the heavy equipment on farms southwest of Sullivan,” reported FCFI executive director Dennis Schlagel. “Many people southwest of Sullivan, out in the country, lost everything they had. FCFI engages in high level disaster relief, using excavators, skid loaders, side by sides, chainsaws, and fencing materials. Some of our equipment has been donated to us, in response to past disaster relief efforts. Some equipment we rent.”

One thing FCFI never seems to have enough of is the people needed as boots on the ground to help with the relief effort, Schlagel noted. “We need skilled equipment operators, chainsaw experts, fence builders, but we also need people willing to glean fields to prepare for this spring’s planting, and general clean-up work around houses and farms,” he said.

The Fellowship of Christian Farmers never charge a fee for their disaster relief efforts. Learn more at www.fcfi.org, or contact Schlagel directly at 309-530-7004.


IFCA: Applicators need to ‘FieldCheck’

BLOOMINGTON — Facing backlash from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the public, the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association is advising all applicators of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to consult FieldCheck before considering spraying. Developed by FieldWatch to address the needs of all applicators, FieldCheck is a specialized online registry that shows areas identified for sensitivity, according to a recent IFCA newsletter to members. These areas include locations of sensitive crops such as specialty crops, organics, fruits and vegetables, non-GMO. Conventional row crops are also noted by pesticide tolerance, along with apiary sites and areas occupied by field workers in near real time in selected states.

“Applicators need reliable information to practice good stewardship when spraying,” according to the IFCA, which supports and has had members on the board of FieldWatch. “Whether you are an aerial applicator, retailer, crop producer, mosquito control applicator, vegetation management, or a turf and ornamental grass company, you need to avoid damage from spray drift. That’s where FieldCheck comes in.”

Anyone planning to apply chemicals to crops this year can register at fieldcheck.org or download the FieldCheck app for iOS and Android from the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.


Black vulture depredation OK’d for farmers

BLOOMINGTON — Black vultures, which as migratory birds are protected, live primarily in southern Illinois but are expanding their range farther north. This is creating depredation problems for farmers, wherever black vultures land. Thanks to the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, livestock farmers can now “blast away” at the pesky critters, which often prey on young livestock, sometimes resulting in injury or mortality and creating major financial losses for producers.

IFB announced they had renewed the statewide depredation permit for black vultures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and will continue to work with USDA Wildlife Services to issue federal sub-permits to livestock farmers who are experiencing issues with black vultures on their land. IFB will also continue to work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to secure the necessary state permits for farmers seeking approval.

Approved applicants will be allowed a maximum of three birds, determined after consultation with USDA Wildlife Services. Following the consultation and approval, a state permit will also be provided by IDNR. Interested livestock producers may request a sub-permit application by contacting Illinois Farm Bureau Associate Director of Commodity and Livestock, Tasha Bunting, at tbunting@ilfb.org.


Illinois Farm Fact:

Black vultures, which have a dark gray head and are aggressive, should not be confused with their larger, less aggressive and red-headed relative, the turkey vulture. (IFB/IDNR)

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