Record corn crop expected locally

Record corn crop expected locally

CHAMPAIGN — Corn yield estimates across Champaign County are uniformly good, with this year's average estimate topping the all-time record by 14 percent, scouts for Premier Cooperative said.

The overall average for Premier's territory — which covers Champaign County and parts of Vermilion, Piatt and Douglas counties — was 221 bushels per acre, easily topping the 2009 record of 194.4 bushels per acre, said Roger Miller, the co-op's chief executive officer.

Incredibly, every one of the 21 regions scouted by Premier had an average topping 200 bushels per acre, Miller said.

The Thomasboro region had the highest average yield, 257 bushels per acre. But within that region, estimates varied from a low of 227 to a high of 329 bushels per acre.

Miller said he was a "doubting Thomas" last week when he read a University of Illinois crop scientist's comment that some areas of Illinois would have yields topping 300 bushels per acre. But the Thomasboro estimate made him a believer.

The lowest average yield — 203 bushels per acre — came in the Elliott region of southern Ford County. Several other nearby regions in northern Champaign County, including Dewey, Gifford and Dillsburg, also had average yields in the low 200s.

But generally, the areas north of Interstate 74 had just as good a yield as areas south of Interstate 74, Miller said.

That's not to say every field prospered. Some fields suffered from standing water from heavy rains in June, and some showed signs of nitrogen deficiency.

Corn that was planted late tended to have lower yield estimates, Miller said, echoing the report of several scouts.

Some areas had great variability in yields. The Jamaica region of Vermilion County, for example, had estimates ranging from 137 to 266 bushels per acre, while the Dewey region in northern Champaign County had estimates varying from 108 to 245.

The good results across the county came despite great variations in seasonal rainfall. Pesotum, for example, received only 14.6 inches of rain over the last five months, compared with the 32.4 inches that Mahomet received.

Scouts also took a look at soybeans. Although the scouts didn't make yield estimates, they reported "big, tall bushy beans" that need rain to fill the pods. Early-planted beans tended to look better than late-planted beans, and there were a few instances of white mold developing in bean fields, Miller said.

Jack Murray, who farms between Fisher and Thomasboro, said most of the white mold cropped up in the Gibson City region and other areas north of U.S. 136.

Corn yields this year were greatly influenced by how much corn was planted per acre, Murray said. High plant populations produced decidedly bigger yields than standard populations of 25,000 to 30,000 plants per acre.

"It was a year to bump population," he said.

Harvest is expected to begin in mid-September, and Miller said farmers who are first out of the fields will likely receive a premium from the elevator for their crops.

"Processors are running out of grain," he explained.

Miller said this year's bumper crop will put pressure on grain storage and transportation.

"In Illinois, there will be no excess storage, period," he said.

Steve Freed, vice president of research for ADM Investor Services, said he expects intense competition for transportation this fall. The oil boom in North Dakota has spurred demand for rail cars, and there's a record amount of barge freight this year, with grain having to compete with shipments of fertilizer and salt for municipalities.

Freed said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected an average corn price of $3.90 per bushel for the 2014-15 year and an average soybean price of $10.35 per bushel. But Freed said with such bountiful crops expected, the market is pointing to corn prices in the $3.50 range and soybean prices in the $9.50 range.

"The market thinks we're going lower," he said.

Bushels of corn

Here's how this year's corn yield average from Premier Cooperative's territory compares with previous years:

Year  Bushels/acre
2014 221
2013 180
2012 117
2011 168
2010 185
2009 194.4
2008 180.3

Source: Premier Cooperative

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