A roundup of agricultural news:
SPRINGFIELD — Thirteen percent of the Illinois corn harvest was complete as of Sunday, as was 10 percent of the state's soybean harvest, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.
In the state's eastern region, which includes Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Kankakee, harvest progressed further. Sixteen percent of the corn and 14 percent of the soybeans had been harvested as of Sunday.
Statewide, 17 percent of the corn was rated excellent, 45 percent good and 28 percent fair. The remaining 10 percent was considered either poor or very poor.
Soybeans weren't in quite as good a shape. Only nine percent was deemed excellent, while 47 percent was good and 33 percent fair. The remaining 11 percent was either poor or very poor.
Threats to urban agriculture identified
URBANA — University of Illinois researchers say soil contamination, atmospheric pollutants and altered microclimates pose threats to urban agriculture.
Sam Wortman and Sarah Taylor Lovell, assistant professors of urban food production and landscape agroecology, respectively, focused much of their research on Chicago neighborhoods where there are many urban gardens and vacant lots.
The threat of soil contamination, especially by lead, may be the most serious threat to food production in urban areas, according to a UI release.
High traffic causes contaminants to build up in soil, and high lead levels are often found in older neighborhoods where lead paint was used.
Wortman said alternate soil management systems could be used to address the limited availability of uncontaminated land. One idea: using raised beds and selecting appropriate compost in areas with high contamination.
The researchers are also studying the effects of atmospheric pollutants and altered microclimates on vegetable crops. They've set up six research stations in and around the Chicago area.
"We find that outside of the city, we see the most ozone damage, the worst ozone damage being at St. Charles," Wortman said. "This is interesting because the source of ozone is in the city."
Cornfields good alternative source for cattle feed
URBANA — Cattle farmers continue to feel the pinch of elevated feed costs, with hay prices remaining at record levels.
As a result, farmers may want to consider using nearby cornfields as an economical alternative to high-priced forage, a University of Illinois Extension educator said.
"The best way to use a harvested cornfield is to allow cattle to graze it," said Travis Meteer in a UI news release. "Cattle graze selectively, looking for the more palatable feedstuffs.
"In the case of cornstalk grazing, the more palatable parts of the plant are also more nutritious. Cattle first eat the remaining corn grain, then husks, then leaves and finally the stalk," he said.
Grazing stalks can also benefit subsequent crops, he said. Cows grazing cornstalks for 60 days will remove about 30 to 40 percent of the residue. Plus, cows deposit nutrients in the form of manure back on the field.
Hay prices have remained high due to depleted inventories stemming from last year's drought, winter-kill issues early this year and a wet spring that resulted in a slow start to the haying season.