PEKIN — A mild fall and winter put farmers ahead of schedule for the 2017 crop season for a while, but the rains of the past two months and those to come could yield unfavorable results at harvest.
Tazewell County Farm Bureau Manager Doug Godke said the news for farmers at this point is mixed.
“Thus far, maybe a few farmers down around Green Valley have been able to get in the fields, but the rest of the county for the most part, they have not been able to get in the field,” said Godke. “I did see one tractor yesterday in the field. He was planting, but I’m not sure what he was planting. It was not a corn planter.
“One of the big advantages we have this year is that the farmers did a lot of their tillage work last fall because of the good weather. And the same thing with putting on anhydrous ammonia. They were able to do that in January and February this year, which normally that’s not possible because the ground is frozen.”
Godke said there is still plenty of time to get the corn crop in, but if the weather continues to be wet farmers can still put in a corn crop as late as early June with seeds geared toward short growing seasons.
The target date typically for the corn crop to be in the ground is May 15, but it is usually planted in the first or second week of April.
“Of course, every day that you delay, it reduces your yield because of the growing season,” said Godke. “That’s why they want to get it in early.
“Corn needs what is known as growing degree days, which is heat and humidity. The farther we get into the season, the less of those days we will have before harvest. (Growing degree days) usually occur somewhere around the Fourth of July and a week or two after that.”
Rain is forecast off and on for the next several days, which will delay planting longer.
National Weather Service Meteorologist in Lincoln James Auten said since Jan. 1 the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport rainfall as of Friday afternoon shows 9.35 inches of rain — 1.47 inches above normal. But, said Auten, the real story is the rainfall since March 1, which is 6.69 inches — 2.38 inches above normal. For April, there has been 2.66 inches of rain, about 1 inch above normal.
“I interpret that to mean that since most of the rain occurred in the springtime, the March, April time frame, the soil is a lot wetter and delayed some of that planting,” said Auten.
And things are not likely to dry out soon. Auten said the weather service’s six- to 10-day outlook calls for above normal precipitation, as does the eight- to 14-day outlook. He said 1.5 to 2 inches of rain are expected to fall in the Peoria area by April 20.
Godke said the farmers only need 10 good dry days to get all of the corn crop in. If a farmer does not have the corn crop in during the optimal time for planting, the farmer can switch to soybeans, which are planted later in the spring.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin