Corn replant

A field in central Illinois on July 10 shows where replanting was done to replace drowned-out areas. Inconsistent growth could open up acres to more insect and disease issues.

Farmers in Illinois are dealing with some unusual issues in this crazy growing season that saw punitive rainfall, late planting and uneven maturities across fields.

“We’re so out of sync to where we should be,” said Golden Harvest agronomist Bob Lawless, who covers east central Illinois. “Disease may come on the same calendar date as the year before, but the crop was quite a ways further along. If disease hits you late in the life cycle, it doesn’t hurt you as badly as if it hits earlier in the life cycle of that corn. That’s a concern, because we’re behind.”

Kevin Mallan, with the ag chemical distributor Rosen’s Inc., works with farmers in southern Illinois. He also points to the inconsistent growth.

“Corn is all over the place, from tassel,” he said. “It’s variable through the fields. We’re seeing yellow plants, low spots in many fields. Crop condition is poor to normal.”

Beck’s agronomist Craig Kilby is also witnessing unusual conditions this time of year.

“There are still quite a few holes in this corn crop that are never going to be corrected,” Kilby said. “Back toward central Illinois, there are more problems. In northern parts of the state between El Paso to Route 116 east to west, there is a large area of prevent-plant acres. They’re scattered across the entire territory.”

Observers estimate that in some regions of the state, as much as 10% of acreage was not planted. Corn was planted one or two months later than average in some fields.

University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey said he was in DeKalb County in early July, and about half the corn was in V2 stage.

“A lot of that corn went in around mid-June,” Schnitkey said. “What that corn is going to do, I don’t know. It depends on the weather the rest of the season.”

Former state climatologist Jim Angel said weather models call for August being cool and wet.

“I’m not sure I totally buy into that,” Angel said. “I think it’s going to be on the warm side, but not catastrophic. I can buy into the wet side.”

Damage by Japanese beetles is a concern. Many farmers are seeing large numbers of the insects. The inconsistency of maturity could open up crops to more damage than usual.

“We have corn that’s not even knee-high, and right next to it is a field where it is fully tasseled,” Lawless said. “You’re going to get silk clippers moving out of those fields, out of the brown silk and moving into those fresh new silks. That could compound the problem.”

Mallan is hearing about heavy flights.

“My phone is blowing up every day on Japanese beetles,” he said. “… It’s both corn and beans. In a lot of cases, they seem to be on the weeds, eating them up. We can’t get in to spray to kill the weeds.”

Kilby said there are indications Japanese beetles could have an impact on crops this season.

“There are quite a few, though I’ve not seen a real large population of them this year,” he said. “There are pockets, based on windshield impact. There’s a concern of silk being on corn, and the timing. Initial silks are out on fewer plants, so they may target them. They can still do some damage as they move around. We’re not diluting the population with uniform pollination timing.”

Kilby and other agronomists expect imminent arrival of adult rootworm beetles, which could cause more problems than usual this season.

“Corn rootworm larvae will be emerging very shortly. The last few years we’ve dodged a bullet with them,” Lawless said. “They’ve emerged after pollination. But it’s very likely they’re going to be emerging before pollination this year. On top of the Japanese beetle, that could be an issue with silk clipping, potentially.”

Kilby is also seeing evidence of gray leaf spot.

“We’re getting some heavier dews in the mornings,” he said. “We have some leaf wetness that’s on the corn plants for several days.”

Sign up for our weekly CropWatch newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

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