A roundup of agricultural news:
SPRINGFIELD — Let the harvest begin.
As of Sunday, 5 percent of the Illinois corn crop and 1 percent of the state's soybean crop had been harvested, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
In the state's eastern region — which includes Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Kankakee — 6 percent of the corn crop and virtually none of the soybean crop had been harvested.
Late planting and late-season dryness led to crops maturing later than they did last year. As of Sunday, only 47 percent of the state's corn crop was mature, compared with 95 percent at the same point last year.
Despite the lack of rain through August and early September, only 12 percent of the corn and 14 percent of the soybeans were rated in "poor" or "very poor" condition.
Here's the breakdown of condition ratings for corn: 10 percent excellent, 48 percent good, 30 percent fair, 9 percent poor, 3 percent very poor.
For soybeans, the condition ratings were: 6 percent excellent, 44 percent good, 34 percent fair, 11 percent poor, 3 percent very poor.
Illinois receives federal dollars for specialty crops
Thirteen projects in Illinois will share in nearly $540,000 awarded through specialty crop block grants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week. The money awarded to the Illinois Department of Agriculture will be used to:
— Work with the University of Illinois to identify optimum varieties and planting dates for hydroponic strawberries grown in "high tunnels" in central and southern Illinois.
— Work with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance to solicit commitments from chefs to make at least 10 percent of their purchases from local specialty crop growers.
— Work with the Ag in Progress Partnership on a mentoring program for FFA members that would teach them about honey bee biology.
— Work with the IAA Foundation to develop and print a Pumpkins Ag Mag and teach students and teachers about pumpkin production in Illinois.
Some of the other projects include: working with the Horseradish Growers of Illinois to improve the size, color and taste of horseradish; and working with Southern Illinois University and grape growers associations to improve soil management methods for vineyards.
Separately, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has announced the deadline to apply for a sustainable agriculture grant is Oct. 15.
Grants will be awarded for on-farm research and demonstrations, educational outreach and university research projects.
Individuals can qualify for grants up to $10,000, while governmental units, nonprofit groups, institutions and organizations can qualify for awards of up to $20,000.
Program guidelines and application forms can be found on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website at http://www.agr.state.il.us.