Corn maturity

Corn planted in April is close to maturity in Central Illinois and will likely yield about 50 bushels per acre more than corn planted in June this year, according to the First Mid Ag Services survey of McLean County corn.

TOWANDA, Ill. — It was no surprise for those doing the 2019 McLean County corn yield estimates this year that corn planted in April will likely yield considerably better than that planted in June.

“When comparing the April- planted corn to the June-planted corn, a roughly 50-bushel per acre swing was estimated,” said Ross Perkins, farm manager for First Mid Ag Services, which conducted the survey.

“That didn’t really surprise us much,” he said at the company’s annual plot day in rural Towanda.

Planting dates for the samples ranged from April 25 through June 11, with an average date of May 25. In estimating the yields, nine farm managers took 1,600 samples from 160 locations. Samples were taken from every township in the central Illinois county.

The farm managers estimated yield of 197.3 bushels per acre. The projected yield falls 9% below the five-year average McLean County Ag Stats yield, but the count ranks as the fourth highest projection in the last decade.

First Mid Ag Service’s track record in predictions in the last decade has been fairly accurate. One yield prediction in 2009 was within less than a bushel of the actual yield. On average, their yields are within 9 bu./acre. Only in 2017 were their estimates considerably on the low side (35 bu./acre low), predicting 197 bu./acre when they got the positive surprise of a realized 232 bu./acre.

These predictions for McLean County are considerably higher than the USDA’s prediction of a national average 168.2 bu./acre, also released on Sept. 12.

Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois Extension specialist, thinks the USDA prediction is still on the high side because so much corn was planted so late. He said he thinks final yields will come out between 160 and 166 bu./acre.

“We won’t know for a month or so,” he said.

The McLean County survey showed only a handful of cornfields were planted in April. About 59% of the crop was planted in “marginal soil conditions” between May 17 and May 21, and 26% of the corn was planted in June this year.

Larry Troyer, a McLean County farmer at the field day, was luckier than most in his area in getting crops planted this spring. Troyer said he got about 45% planted in April, 50% in May and 5% in June.

There is still some uncertainty with test weights and how the season finishes, said Troyer, of Hudson, Ill. He expects on the land he farms, yields will likely be down about 20% from the excellent yields of last year.

Samples for the First Mid Ag Service corn survey, taken between the fourth week of August and the first week of September, ranged from 123 bu./acre to 276 bu./acre. This year a little less than half (47%) predict yields better than 200 bushels per acre compared to 78% reaching that yield level last year, Perkins said.

“According to our estimates, yield should be similar to 2009 and 2013 seasons,” Perkins said of the county.

The southern part of the county received timely rain showers in July and is expected to have higher yields.

Populations were better than expected, given the planting conditions, he said.

“With the late planting and variable summer rainfall, test weight will be a very large determining factor in the final yield throughout the county in 2019,” Perkins said.

Although very few farms were fit during planting, emergence turned out better than expected, Perkins said.

This year about 59% of the cornfields surveyed were sprayed with fungicide compared to 58% the year before. About a 28-bushel advantage is estimated on farms that were sprayed this year.

Now, “weather until harvest will play a factor. We need sunshine,” Perkins said. “It’s one for the books,” he said of the weather conditions this year.

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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.