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STU ELLIS 2019

Monday’s USDA Crop Progress Report indicated that 22% of the corn still had not begun to pollinate across the 18 major corn growing states, including 19% in Illinois, 16% in Iowa, and 40% in Indiana. Ninety-three percent of corn typically reaches pollination by now, based on the 5-year average, but this is not an average year, by any means.

Across the 18 major soybean production states, some 28% of soybeans have not yet reached the blooming stage, compared to 13% for the 5-year average. And only 37% are setting pods, well off the pace of 63% for the 5-year average. The quality of the crop is questionable at best. Marketing adviser Gary Ellis (much older cousin) of Ivesdale says, “A 54% good to excellent crop rating does not suggest to me that the ‘good’ raises the ‘ugly’ to a 46-48 bushel per acre average yield.”

Even though the corn and soybean crops are quickly headed to a date with a combine, farmers have a lot to plan for as they bide their time waiting for their crops to mature as best as possible. Nearly 90% of farmers have crop insurance and they will likely have a record amount of paperwork to complete because of low yields and unplanted fields.

With the wide range in planting dates, some fields will be close to typical, and others will have very small sizes of soybeans and corn kernels. Combine adjustments will become a necessity, and maybe even within a single field. The pages of combine manuals will be well-worn by the end of harvest.

The late-maturing corn crop likely will be high in moisture when it is harvested, and that will require many gallons of propane pumped through grain dryers this fall. Those will have to be prepped for a long season, which will slow down harvest efficiency on many farms. And farm budgets for grain drying will quickly be torn up and discarded because they were insufficient for the needs of 2019.

In some of that spare time waiting for crops to dry in the field, many farmers will be challenging themselves to determine what could have been done differently this year to ensure there is never a repeat. Subsequently, some farmers already have a date with tiling contractors to use their technology to drain ponds in fields that stayed wet all summer.

Grain elevators will be in much of the same mode, particularly with drying, and that may cause many elevators to restrict their hours to receive grain, until the dryer catches up with the in-flow. The quality of the grain will also be a priority for elevator staff members to test, because many fields of corn and soybeans will not meet the requirements of top level US grain standards.

So 2019 will be a year to remember and tell the grandkids about, and will be a yardstick to measure the challenges of farming.

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Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.

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