DECATUR — Marc Padrutt and other host farmers have in the past been able to beat whatever obstacles were thrown their way and have corn ready to harvest in time for the Farm Progress Show.
A cool growing season this year, however, proved too much to overcome, forcing show organizers to say Wednesday that field demonstrations will be canceled for next week’s show. Plans are being put in motion to have an alternative display of equipment that would have been used in the field demonstrations.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” said Padrutt, who has been one of three host farmers for the show since Decatur first held it in 2005. “These were the conditions we were dealt. It’s out of our hands.”
The host farmers plant varieties of seed typically found in northern states such as Wisconsin to shorten the growing season and try to have the corn ready in time for the event, Padrutt said. Corn can in most years be planted in April, he said.
As with other area farmers, they needed to wait this year for a dry enough period of time to complete planting, Padrutt said.
The corn was planted by May 15, which should have been sufficient for the corn to be ready, said Matt Jungmann, the show’s manager.
“The planting date was not the issue,” said Jungmann, who noted that the corn was planted May 11 for the 2011 show. “It has been unseasonably cool all summer, which has not allowed the corn to progress.”
Farm Progress Show staff pulled a few ears Tuesday and reported that the demo corn is at the 25 percent milk line. Host farmers anticipate harvest will start on the 96-day hybrids in a few weeks. From the size of the ears, they’re expecting 200-plus bushels, which is almost unheard of for short-season corn in Central Illinois.
Harvesting crops early would not benefit anyone from the host farmers to show attendees, Padrutt said. Companies, including AGCO, Case IH, New Holland, Claas and John Deere & Co., that are demonstrating the latest equipment want to be able to show how it performs in conditions farmers would normally be dealing with during harvest, Padrutt said.
Thousands of show attendees follow the equipment to judge its performance in the field, Padrutt said.
“It’s not marketable as grain,” Padrutt said. “We want the field demos to be as realistic as they can be.”
Having the help in harvesting the fields would have been a benefit for host farmers, who instead will be forced to plan on doing the work later on, Padrutt said. He expects farmers in the area to be ready to harvest in mid- to late September if the weather cooperates.
Show organizers were holding on to hope in the past month that the field demonstrations could continue, but Jungmann said it was quickly becoming evident that sufficient heat wasn’t coming in time.
“We just had a bad feeling the forecast needed to change,” Jungmann said. “Decatur Celebration was great, but it put a knot in our stomach. We needed a normal hot Decatur summer. We weren’t accumulating heat units.”
Not having the field demonstrations puts the Farm Progress Show in uncharted territory, Jungmann said. It will be the first time in its 60 years the fields won’t be ready for harvest, he said.
Field demonstrations have been canceled in other years because of wet conditions during the show, but Jungmann said not because the crops weren’t ready.
“It’s not a record we wanted to set,” he said.
Companies have already invested a significant amount of money and resources into getting equipment to Decatur for the show, he said.
So Jungmann said plans are being adjusted so a runway show can be held. Companies will be able to talk about their machines utilizing a space outside the northwest corner of the fenced exhibit field.
“They’re going to strut their equipment in front of the crowd,” Jungmann said.
Harvest equipment will start the shows at 11 a.m., followed by precision equipment at 1 p.m. and tillage equipment at 2 p.m. each day.
Jungmann is hoping the lack of field demonstrations won’t negatively affect attendance. Progress City USA is still being prepared to handle what could potentially be a record-setting crowd.
Crews continue to put up tents, finish displays and haul in machinery using heavy equipment to have it all ready for the start of the three-day show.
The fenced 80-acre site is completely full with exhibitors from previous shows, and a 13-acre annex site outside the west main gate that had in previous years been exhibitor parking is being readied to handle overflow companies new to the show.
“We should have an excellent crowd,” Jungmann said. “We’re going to make the best of it.”
In anticipation of the large crowds, classes at Richland Community College will not be held Tuesday and Wednesday. Classes will, however, be in session the rest of the week, including Aug. 29.
The Farm Progress Show runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, along with 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 29 at Progress City USA.