Area corn yields vary widely, according to grain elevator officials, with many crops suffering through low totals as a result of this summer’s prolongued drought.
In the Paxton area, corn yields have not been this poor since 1988, when drought resulted in yields of 20 bushels an acre in some fields, according to Bill Jarboe, manager of the Ludlow Co-op elevator at Perdueville west of Paxton.
"It’s probably a little better than it was then, but we didn’t expect so much back then either," Jarboe said. "The seed corn we planted then was a lot different than we plant now."
This year, farmers around Perdueville are averaging about 50 to 60 bushels an acre, with a high yield of 120 and a low of about 25. The typical average for corn in the area is about 180 to 200, Jarboe said.
At the Ludlow Co-op elevator in Paxton, manager Bruce Bastert said yields are "all over the place," so an average is difficult to estimate. But Bastert said yields appear to "all be down from what would be a normal year.
"Everything’s hurt — some to a greater extent than others," Bastert said. "There’s some that’s pretty ugly."
Jarboe also said there is "big variation" within fields. In a single field, yields have ranged from zero bushels an acre to up to 200, he said.
The reason for the variation is soil type and the ability of the soil to retain moisture, Jarboe said.
"Higher ground is zero, and lower ground it just kind of holds the moisture better," Jarboe said.
"What rain cloud you were under, what variety (was planted), what the soil type is — it’s tremendously variable just going through a field," Bastert added.
Recent rains did not help the area’s corn crop, Jarboe said, but the precipitation may have helped improve soybeans from what would have been 15 to 20 bushels an acre to about 35, he said.
Bastert said 40 to 75 percent of the corn crop in the territory served by Ludlow Co-op elevators is harvested. Jarboe said about 75 percent of the Perdueville area’s corn crop is harvested.
Meanwhile, only a few fields of soybeans have already been harvested around Perdueville, Jarboe said. Yields are averaging about 30 to 35 bushels an acre for beans so far — still below the typical average of 50.
Gibson City area
In the Gibson City area in western Ford County, yields have ranged form 10 bushels an acre to 85 or 90, according to J.B. Daughenbaugh, grain merchandiser for Alliance Grain of Gibson City.
"I’d say right now we’re running about a 60- to 65-bushel average for this area," he said, noting the five-year average for yields in the area is about 180 to 190 bushels an acre.
About 95 to 98 percent of the corn is rated poor, Daughenbaugh said.
"The drought and heat did it," Daughenbaugh said. "With so many hot days in a row, the weather just didn’t allow the corn to produce and pollinate like it should have."
Daughenbaugh said farmers have "some higher hopes for bean yields." He said some of the later-maturing beans were helped by recent rains.
In southern Iroquois County, average corn yields are also down from the typical average.
At Ludlow Co-op’s elevator in Buckley, the average corn yield is 55 — down from the typical average of 180, according to Jerry Prahl, manager of the elevator.
"We’ve had some east of town that were 170 (bushels an acre), and we’ve had some that are 7 (bushels an acre)," Prahl said.
Prahl estimated that nearly 70 percent of the crop is harvested. The soybean is just getting under way, with two fields bringing in their crop for respective yields of 38 bushels an acre and 17 bushels and acre. Prahl said the average yield for soybeans is typically 55 or 60.
In the Loda area, corn yields are averaging 30 to 65 bushels an acre, with a few fields showing yields less than 30, said Mike Snyder, manager of the Ludlow Co-op elevator in Loda. Normally, corn yields average 130 to 160 bushels an acre in the Loda area, he said.
No soybeans have been taken to the Loda elevator yet, he said.
Maynard Birkey, customer relations director for Premier Cooperative, Dewey, said yields in that area have fallen to as low as 20 bushels an acre. And this isn’t the first year the region has suffered.
"There’s a general area from Route 136 to Route 9 that has had three difficult years in a row, with this being the worst," Birkey said.
"We’re in a real difficult area as far as the drought hit us hard, the drought and the heat. We’ve got lighter soils around here along the river."
The highest yield Birkey has heard in the Dewey area has been 140 bushels an acre.
Birkey said Dewey-Fisher area farmers knew there would be yield variations based on soil type and plant population.
"Those (are the) factors that really have led to significant variation in the field," Birkey said. "You not only vary from farm to farm but vary within the farm ... from one end of the field to another."
Birkey said yield monitors on today’s combines can help farmers keep a close eye on how the yields are varying.
He estimated corn harvest is "close to three-fourths done," and said there haven’t been enough soybeans harvested to provide a reliable yield estimate.
Mike Kuhns, office manager and customer service manager for Premier Cooperative’s elevator in Thomasboro, said corn yields are "all over the board in our trade area."
Compared to the Fisher-Dewey-Elliott area, which is reporting yields as low as 40-90 bushels an acre, the cooperative is seeing high yields in the 160-190 bushels an acre range in the Sidney-St.Joseph-Leverett area.
"It’s just whatever geographic range you might be where it rained and where it didn’t," Kuhns said.
He said the Rantoul area is somewhere in the middle with yields reported in the 90-130 bushels an acre range.
Kuhns said farmers have been bringing in corn wetter than expected "for the drought conditions we were in."
He said some corn has been testing around 19-20 percent moisture. Fifteen percent is considered ideal.
Kuhns said the farmers aren’t able to let the corn dry in the fields because of bad stalk conditions caused by the drought.
"The stalk quality is not good, so they’re not waiting," Kuhns said. "It’s a very weak stalk in some varieties. They’re afraid (the corn) will go down on them. Some varieties are showing they’re dropping their ears."
While grain elevators will be hurt by the poor harvest — Kuhns said the amount being brought in is down by about one-third — they will be helped somewhat by corn-drying costs passed onto farmers.
Steve Myers, operations manager at Ludlow-Co-op elevator in Ludlow, said corn yields in that area range from 50-110 bushels an acre.
"South of Ludlow ... there’s spots around the west side of Rantoul that got rains and nobody else got them," Myers said. "It was amazing. I talked to a farmer today, and he said the worst (yield) he’s seen is 120."
Myers said the worst areas are north of Paxton in the Loda-Buckley area.
"I talked to a guy today, and he said it was making 30 (bushels an acre). It’s two years in a row the Loda-Buckley area has been hit."
Myers said corn was being brought in wet early in the harvest, but not much wet corn is being brought in now.
"It’s standing good," Myers said. "It’s still got a little green in it. It’s drying down. Those that have some wet corn, they’re letting it dry. Earlier, we had some corn that was dead. The stalk had died."
Myers said Ludlow Co-op has been "seeing some problem with aflatoxin fungus in corn.
Birkey said Dewey area farmers are seeing cases of aflatoxin as well.
"We’re screening for it," Birkey said. "If we see glowers, we test."
Premier Cooperative pulls samples from each corn load, grinds the corn and uses a black light. If the corn glows, it can mean the corn has the fungus.
"It tells you it might be in there," Birkey said.
Additional testing is done on the corn to gauge whether the fungus is, indeed, present.
Aflatoxins are often found in fields where there has been high humidity, but plants can also be afflicted with the fungus during seasons of drought.
Birkey said entering the growing season, soil conditions were excellent and primed for a good crop — provided the weather had cooperated.
He said this would have been a better year not to push the plant population. In years past, he said, farmers planted about 26,000 corn plants an acre but have bumped that up to 34,000-36,000 plants per acre in recent years.
A smaller plant population allows for greater air flow through corn fields, which would have been helpful during the season of high heat.
Rantoul Press editor Dave Hinton contributed to this report.