Cornfields in central Illinois usually look like this in mid-October if they haven’t been harvested already. This year the record-breaking drought has made fields look like this in July when corn is supposed to be actively growing and pollinating. Considering that rainfall totals for the year in Trent’s area are roughly 20 inches below normal, the half-inch last Sunday (Aug. 6) in the Cerro Gordo area and the quarter-inch yesterday in the LaPlace area, really aren’t much, yet such little rains seem like a miracle when it hasn’t rained in weeks. Not only is the low rainfall a record, but so the extreme temperature, in the 100s for days at a time.
Trent watches all plants, not just corn and soybeans. He marvels that the trees, shrubs, and lawns looking parched beyond saving, yet the soybeans plants actually look pretty good, and field scoutings indicate that there will be a corn crop, albeit much smaller than last year’s. Trent attributes the crop survival to the stunningly-better genetics of recent years. A recent elevator crop tour in Trent’s area estimated an average corn yield of 122 bushels per acre. Trent sees that as right on the mark.. His fields have extreme variation depending on soil variability and drainage. Even from one end of the field to the other, yields can go from 180 bushels per acre to less than 50.
Trent thinks the crop tour estimate for soybeans was low. Trent sees no pod counts (per plant) in the 20s; his run mostly in the 40s. Trent immediately cautions “The pods aren’t filled out yet, so a lot depends on rain the next few weeks.” Right now, Trent is mowing, cleaning bins, and getting ready for harvest. He expects to begin picking corn the week of August 20. “There’s always next year,” Trent notes, hoping that the lack of snow last winter and lack of rain during this growing season don’t repeat. Due to the lack of a hard freeze last winter, there was no permafrost layer to seal in the soil moisture, so it just kept evaporating with very little replenishment, the beginning of the record drought of 2012.