Small bursts of rain are expected to lead to some disappointing results

CHAMPAIGN — Farmers were praying for rain at last week’s Premier Cooperative crop tour results meeting. When they left, it was sprinkling.

But like most of the storms this summer, last week’s rain was short-lived.

“We haven’t seen general fronts coming through that give us 1 or 2 inches of rain over a period of half a day. We’re seeing small bursts,” said Merle McCallister, a farmer in Gibson City.

These small bursts of rain are expected to lead to disappointing yields this year.

Premier Cooperative recently worked with farmers to collect 1,182 ears of corn in 24 areas throughout Ford, Vermilion, Champaign and Piatt counties.

Based on these samples, it expects an average yield of 190 bushels per acre in its coverage area, down from 224 last year.

“Unfortunately, (the crop survey) is going to tell us that we’re not going to take in near as much corn as we did last year,” Premier CEO Roger Miller said.

None of the communities surveyed are expected to produce yields better than last year’s, though the bursts of rain mean some areas are doing much better than others not too far away.

“As in a lot of things in life, there’s some winners and some losers,” Miller said.

Philo had the highest projected yield, at 212 bushels per acre, while Dewey had the lowest, at 169.

As a percentage of last year’s estimated yield, Mahomet is faring the best, with an expected yield of 194 bushels per acre, or 96 percent of its estimated 202 bushels per acre last year.

On the other end, Rising is only expected to bring in 180 bushels per acre, or just 70 percent of the 256 bushels per acres predicted last year.

For individual fields, the predicted yields ranged from 69 to 262 bushels per acre.

McCallister said the spotty showers have affected his operation.

“We have a lot of variability in very short distances,” he said.

“I farm in an area that on the north end, we’ve had adequate rainfall and we’re going to have excellent yields there. The south end would be in line with Dewey and Elliott (which have expected yields of 169 and 185 bushels per acre, respectively), so I’m seeing that variability from one end of my operation to the other.”

Another part of the problem was the heavy rains as farmers were planting.

“So the old saying that rain makes grain, well, quite frankly we need to add a statement to that,” Miller said. “Because rain at the right time makes grain, and the rain in May didn’t help us a whole lot.”

Lee Waters, a crop insurance agent with Farm Credit who also farms with his dad and brother in northeast Urbana, said he’s seen variability in his own crops, based in large part on when they were planted.

“There was a really heavy, cold rain that came the 23rd, 24th of April. If it was in about four or five days before that, that corn is pretty even and looks pretty good, though not as good as in past years,” Waters said.

“But there’s a stretch there where the corn was not out of the ground yet, and it was cold and wet and all the plants didn’t come up even, so a lot of people either replanted or left it.”

For his farming operation, “the stuff we planted before the 18th of April, I feel pretty positive about,” Waters said. “The later planted stuff is not as good.”

Going forward, the farmers said they need rain soon, especially for the soybeans.

“Quite frankly, if it doesn’t rain, we’re probably looking at the best yields right here; it’s going to go down from here, especially soybeans,” Miller said. “Hopefully we can catch rain, and we can at least stop the damage that’s been done so far.”

With low commodity prices, Waters said, farmers will have to be good managers to weather a tough year with low yields.

“It’s going to come down to a lot of guys being good managers and, of course, whatever God does for us with rain.”

Categories (2):News, Agriculture


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