Illinois corn combine

All farmers suffered with the weather extremes this year. With too much rain then too little, the University of Illinois corn hybrid tests had to throw out a few trials, but overall yields were good.

CHAMPAIGN Ill. — The weather conditions were so challenging this year, results from two test sites in the University of Illinois’ annual corn hybrid trials will be excluded in 2019 – one in northern Illinois and one in southern Illinois.

“It was a bad year. It was too wet and too dry,” said Darin Joos, senior research specialist who leads corn and forage variety testing.

This has been one of the more trying years to produce results since the University of Illinois Variety Testing program began in 1934. The crop performance tests are conducted to provide farmers, Extension personnel and private seed companies with agronomic information on hybrids and varieties of the major Illinois field crops.

The test result website states, “The trials are professionally managed and conducted in a research-based manner to minimize variability and ensure the integrity of the results.” In years like this, that means excluding results that would not meet the criteria.

This year, the northern corn locations suffered from too much rain and cool temperatures during emergence that caused plant stands to be low and variable.

“This caused grain yields to be variable due to a hybrid’s location in the field, not their true phenotypic potential,” Joos said.

Therefore, the results from Fenton in Whiteside County in northwestern Illinois cannot be used.

Results had to be thrown out from the southern location in Elkville, Illinois, as well. The yields for both corn and soybeans were significantly reduced by a lack of rainfall in July and August, Joos said.

Harvest was also a challenge, with some plots in Dwight in Livingston County, for example, having to be harvested after the Oct. 31 snow.

Joos harvested both corn and soybeans this year. In the past, three researchers worked on harvest, getting it done more quickly.

“We could have done with another combine,” he said.

The smaller labor force is in part due to test funding. There are fewer seed companies today testing fewer hybrids, and thus less funding for these projects. Joos encourages companies to participate so more hybrids can to be tested, which will make more results available.

He finished corn harvest Nov. 9 this year.

“Normally it would all be done in October. Some years, the first week in October,” he said.

There are still a lot of crops standing in Illinois, he said in mid-November.

Despite the challenges this weather season brought, the university has produced its annual corn hybrid and soybean variety trials, with the results published on their website at http://vt.cropsci.illinois.edu/ and in this issue of Illinois Farmer Today.

“It’s been a tough year for research, but we still had some pretty good results,” said Nathan Kleczewski, a University of Illinois crop scientist who helps with the hybrid trials as part of his research duties.

Results by region

Even though the Elkville site results were not useable, other parts of southern Illinois had some of the best results for corn for the year, with averages of 240 and 260 bu./acre, Joos said.

In the southern region, tests at the St. Peter and Belleville sites of 73 hybrids and one non-GMO variety averaged 230 bu./acre at 24.1% moisture.

In the southern region corn was planted at 32,200 plants per acre. When comparing this year to the three-year average in southern Illinois, there was more of a mix than in central Illinois.

In all, in east central Illinois, 86 hybrids and 11 non-GMO varieties were tested. In Goodfield and Urbana, sites with 234 bu./acre average yields, harvested at an average of 16% moisture.

In west central Illinois, 71 hybrids and 13 non-GMO varieties were tested, with an average of 242 bu./acre harvested at about 20.5% moisture.

In the east central and west central regions, corn was planted at 36,500 plants per acre.

For these regions, where there was data available for a comparison between this year and the three-year average, almost every time yields were lower this year than the three-year average.

In corn-after-corn trials at Monmouth, in west central Illinois, the average yield was 243 bu./acre of 16 regular hybrids and three non-GMO varieties tested.

However, the good news for almost every hybrid in every district this year was good stability, Joos said. There was very little lodging.

In addition to corn, University of Illinois performance reports are available for conventional and Roundup-resistant soybeans, forage crops, wheat and sorghum. Next year variety trials will be done on hemp for the first time, Joos said.

For 2020, Joos is looking for a new farmer cooperator in Dekalb and welcomes anyone interested to contact him at joos@illinois.edu or 217-778-7047.

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