More than two-thirds of crops rated 'good'

A roundup of agricultural news:

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 70 percent of the Illinois corn and soybean crops are rated either good or excellent, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

As of Sunday, 17 percent of the state's corn crop was rated excellent, 50 percent was good and 24 percent was fair. Seven percent was rated poor while 2 percent was very poor.

The service said 18 percent of the state's soybean crop was rated excellent, 51 percent was good, 23 percent was fair, 6 percent was poor and 2 percent was very poor.

Rains last week left already-soaked fields in the west and southwest parts of the state even soggier.

But in the eastern part, which includes Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Kankakee, 90 percent of the topsoil had adequate moisture, and only 9 percent had surplus moisture.

Statewide, the average height of the corn crop was 21 inches — less than half the 51-inch height of last year's crop at this point. Over the last five years, the average height of the crop at this point was 35 inches.

Purple corn plants most likely temporary

URBANA — Purple and yellow plants are appearing in some corn fields this spring, but University of Illinois crop scientist Emerson Nafziger said the problems may correct themselves if the weather is right.

"We often see purple corn when soils are cool and dry during early plant-growth stages, or much more rarely in fields with low soil-test phosphorus levels," he said in a UI release.

"The purple color is from a pigment that forms when there is more sugar in the leaves than the plant can utilize," he said.

Nafziger said growers can expect the problem of purple corn to correct itself as root growth continues.

"It will help if wet soils continue to dry out, but in fields with dry surface soils, root growth might benefit from some rainfall," he said.

"There is no evidence that temporary purpling affects yield of the crop, though factors such as soil compaction that can lead to purpling might also reduce yields if the weather is dry later in the season," he added.

Yellow colors characterize nitrogen deficiency. But as soils dry out and temperatures stay warm, it's likely many fields with yellow corn plants will improve rapidly, Nafziger said.

Area commodity board candidates announced

SPRINGFIELD — Two residents of East Central Illinois are among those seeking three-year terms on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board this year.

Dirk Rice of Philo will be a write-in candidate for the District 6 seat that represents Champaign, Vermilion, Ford and Iroquois counties. Roger Sy of Newman will be a candidate for the District 12 seat that represents a seven-county area including Douglas, Coles and Edgar counties.

Producers will vote July 2 at county Cooperative Extension Offices, and election results will be announced by Aug. 1.

The board decides which industry promotions and research projects get funded with state checkoff dollars.

Checkoff dollars come from assessments levied at the first point of sale. State law sets the assessment for corn at five-eighths of a cent per bushel.

UI scientists find secret of rootworm resistance

CHAMPAIGN — University of Illinois scientists have discovered why some Western corn rootworms are able to survive crop rotation.

The answer lies in microbes in their gut, according to study findings that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For years, farmers have tried to control rootworms by using crop rotation, planting corn one year and soybeans the next. The idea was to deprive rootworms of the corn they crave.

But the pest is becoming resistant to crop rotation, and a UI team has determined that bacteria in the gut of certain rootworms enabled the beetles to feed more and survive longer on soybean plants.

Antibiotics may lower their resistance, though. The researchers found that treating resistant rootworms with high levels of antibiotics lowered their survival time on soybean leaves to that of nonresistant rootworms.

The researchers included Manfredo Seufferheld of the UI Department of Entomology, Joseph Spencer of the Illinois Natural History Survey, graduate student Chia-Ching Chu, former postdoctoral researcher Jorge Zavala and graduate student Matias Curzi.

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