Researchers look to past for clues on record yield

Researchers look to past for clues on record yield

A roundup of agriculture news

URBANA — University of Illinois agricultural economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good were curious.

How has this year's weather stacked up with the weather in years that produced high corn yields?

They looked back at those years — 1972, 1979, 1982, 1994, 2004 and 2009 — and found June tended to be slightly drier than average those years, while July and August were wetter than average.

They also found June, July and August temperatures in those years tended to be slightly cooler than average.

Analysts suggest a good chance of record U.S. corn yields this year — maybe topping the previous record of 164.7 bushels per acre, set in 2009.

But Irwin and Good say this June was unlike Junes from the highest-yielding years.

For example, this June had more precipitation than average.

Plus, the average temperature in June was "well above" the average of Junes from the highest-yielding years.

That's not to say this year won't produce record yields.

But, the researchers said, it would be precedent-setting if farmers get such high yields after that much rain in June.

"History suggests that cool, moist conditions need to persist through August" for the U.S. average yield to equal that of other high-yielding years, they concluded in a UI news release.

Researchers land grants

URBANA — University of Illinois researchers landed two big grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the government announced this week.

Both projects are aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for the production of bioenergy.

The department's Office of Biological and Environmental Research awarded $1.34 million to a project to improve the genetics of bioenergy sorghum.

Patrick Brown, assistant professor of crop sciences, is principal investigator for that project. Among other things, the project seeks to identify traits and variants in that crop and in closely related perennial grasses.

That same office awarded nearly $1.5 million to a project to spur rapid development of miscanthus as a bioenergy crop.

Erik Sacks, an assistant professor of crop sciences, is principal investigator for that project. Among other things, the project will conduct field trials with M. sacchariflorus to evaluate yield potential and adaptation.

Those two grants were among 10 bioenergy-related grants totaling $12.6 million that were announced this week by the energy and agriculture departments.

Farmer training offered

URBANA — Aspiring fruit and vegetable farmers can sign up for free training offered by the University of Illinois crop sciences department.

"Preparing A New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers" will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. one Saturday a month from December 2014 through November 2015.

It will be the third time the program has been offered.

Sessions will be offered at the UI's Urbana campus. For people in other parts of the state, sessions will be offered at the UI's Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Simpson and at the Kane County UI Extension office in St. Charles.

Topics include: soils and soil testing, pest and disease scouting, pruning and thinning, pesticide application, food safety, legal issues, marketing and business planning. The program includes classroom, hands-on and in-field instruction.

Applications may be made through Oct. 24, or until capacity is reached. Online applications are available at newillinoisfarmers.org/new_generation_app.php.

Because the program is growing in popularity, enrollment has become more competitive.

A Spanish-language program is also offered through a partnership with the Illinois Migrant Council.

The project is supported by a grant from the Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Ttraining is open to aspiring Illinois produce farmers, new growers with less than five years of experience, commodity farmers interested in diversifying and high school and community college agriculture teachers.

Bike tour

FREEPORT — The annual bike ride to benefit the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program will be Sept. 2-3 in northwestern Illinois.

The hilly nature of the terrain inspired this year's slogan, "Nature's Rollercoaster 2014."

Participants can sign up for one- or two-day rides. Two routes — a long and a short route — will be available each day, with the short routes about 40 miles and the long routes about 80 miles.

All routes begin and end in Freeport, and riders make brief stops at schools along the way to raise students' awareness of agriculture.

The registration rate for one-day rides — including T-shirt, lunch, dinner and support along the way — is $65, with a $10 discount for students.

Rates for two-day rides, including overnight accommodations, are $300 for a single room and $225 for a shared room, with $25 discounts for students.

Discounts are also available for those who raise money for the program by collecting donations from family, friends and coworkers.

More information about the ride is available at iaafoundation.org.

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