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Illinois rains super-charge crops, but threaten disease

Illinois rains super-charge crops, but threaten disease

Central Illinois crop update

Central Illinois saw a lot of clouds and heavy rain at the end of June.

Crops in Illinois have withstood erratic rainfall and are looking good at the midpoint of the growing season. Plenty of moisture has been a boon, although there are concerns about too much in some places.

Corn is taking off.

“We have good stands. I think there will be some areas that could be near records in yield,” said Craig Kilby, an agronomist with Beck’s Hybrids whose territory includes west central Illinois. “Not for the entire area I cover, but there are some extremely good crops. For beans we’ll have to see what August brings.”

Nate Prater, an agronomist with Golden Harvest and Syngenta, has seen some very good crops. He covers the portion of the state south of Route 16. Precipitation has been more than adequate in some areas, however.

“Some stuff looks phenomenal. Most has had enough water to relieve that stress, but the problem is, now some of it has too much water,” Prater said. “There are some beans going backward in lower areas. We don’t get 1-inch rains overnight, we get 3 inches in about an hour. Some creeks have come out.”

Kilby said most of the soybeans in his coverage area have entered the R3 growth stage, in which pods are forming. That is an ideal time for fungicide applications, something many farmers are doing this season.

More often, fungicide treatment is becoming a non-scouting activity in soybean and corn, especially this year, with good grain prices at the elevator.

“On soybeans we see a huge payback on that,” Kilby said. “I’d say this is going to be a high acceptance year. There are probably more people doing it in corn than in the past.”

Prater has witnessed a broad range of conditions in southern Illinois. Weather incidents forced some replanting, but much of that is doing well.

“It’s a mishmash of everything this year,” he said. “The spring went well for 90% of my territory. The latest corn I’ve seen replanted because of hail and flooding was June 18. We looked at it today and it’s knee-high and doesn’t look too bad, though it has a long way to go. Corn that didn’t get flooded is probably a week away from denting down by Shawneetown.”

The results of the July 18 weekly crop survey by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service indicated that 65% of corn in the Illinois was good to excellent, virtually identical to the same period last year. Soybean growers reported 60% good to excellent, down from 67% in the 2020 survey.

Corn across the state was 77% silking, 10 points above the recent five-year average, while 66% of soybean plants were blooming, 10 points above the five-year average spanning 2016 to 2020, according to NASS.

The wet weather has the potential to introduce leaf diseases in soybeans, but farmers appear to be up to the challenge. Aerial applicators are keeping busy across the state.

“I’m concerned about leaf disease,” Kilby said. “A lot of diseases are moving up the plant pretty rapidly. Southern rust could be an issue. Next few weeks we could see a real explosion in gray leaf and northern. This year we’re going to see a huge payoff on investment on fungicides. Natural dew on the soybean leaves creates a carrier for fungicide to enter the leaf. That adds to our ability to penetrate the leaves.”

Prater noted that late-planted soybeans could be a problem in some areas.

“Once wheat was cut, some double-crop beans are going to struggle to get out of the ground because it’s so wet,” he said.

He is optimistic about the potential of both corn and soybeans.

“We’re at the mercy of what Mother Nature is going to do to us now,” Prater said. “If we keep getting rains, we’re sitting on a pretty crop because stands and emergence are really good on corn, especially. We’re starting to see some pressure.”

CropWatch Weekly Update

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Nat Williams is Southern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.

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