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Harvest, wheat planting running ahead of average pace

Marvin Johnson unloads corn from his combine into a grain cart while harvesting a field near Grand Ridge in LaSalle County. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)



Illinois farmers continue to cut soybeans at a furious pace between rain showers.

Soybean harvest was 61% complete statewide as of Oct. 15, which was 8 percentage points ahead of the average pace, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office.

“We completed beans before the rain (the first half of the month),” said Megan Dwyer, a fourth-generation farmer from Henry County and director of conservation and nutrient stewardship for the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “Corn has been off to a slow start, but a lot of farmers got in the field (Oct. 16). I think there will be a strong push.”

Marvin Johnson radios harvest instructions from the cab of his combine while shelling corn near Grand Ridge in LaSalle County. Johnson returned to the farm after retiring from a corporate career. Corn harvest was 52% complete as of Oct. 15 statewide, which is spot on with the average pace. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

Corn harvest was 52% complete as of Oct. 15 statewide, which is spot on with the average pace.

Meanwhile, farmers planted nearly half of the winter wheat crop (47%) in the state as of the same date, which was 2 points ahead of the average pace and 11 points ahead of last year’s pace.

“I finished wheat planting and fertilizing and am looking forward to the green-up in those fields as the season comes to a close,” said FarmWeek CropWatcher Marshall Newhouse from Boone County.

The weather pattern for remaining fieldwork could shift for the week ahead with a possibility of warmer and wetter conditions.

“We’ve had some cooler conditions and even some frost across the state,” John Baranick, DTN ag meteorologist, told the RFD Radio Network. “But (this) week we’re going to pump up the heat.”

An active storm track could also set up over the central U.S. and delay fieldwork in some areas.

“Whether or not that makes it into Illinois much is still to be determined,” Baranick said.

As farmers continue to harvest corn, stalk quality remains a key consideration. They should plan to harvest fields with any potential issues as soon as possible to avoid potential lodging problems.

Overall, late-season plant health is critical to a smooth harvest and maximizing yield potential, according to Jeff Morey, AgriGold agronomist. It’s not something that just “happens.” Keeping your corn crop healthy all the way to harvest takes planning, hybrid selection, fertility management and fungicide.

“It’s an investment that pays off, especially in challenging years,” Morey said. In years when drought and heat stress the crop, he has witnessed a 10- to 20-bushel-an-acre advantage.

Plant health should influence farmers’ corn hybrid decisions for next season.

“Farmers with a lot of acres to combine need that corn plant standing well into October. They should look for genetics with good late-season plant health, stalk quality and standability,” Morey advises.

“A fungicide application is a must for hybrids with lower plant health ratings and on disease-prone acres,” he said.

“You’ll also want to make sure you have good fertility, including getting nitrogen into those plants when they need it.”

Morey encourages farmers to keep a notepad handy throughout harvest.

“Keep a record of how products fared in terms of plant health,” he said. “When harvest wraps up, talk with your agronomist and see if your experience matched what they heard from other farmers. Then use that to make decisions that work well for your farm next season.”


This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit

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