What a difference a year makes.
Last year by this time, 38 percent of the Illinois corn crop had been planted. This year, only 1 percent of the crop is in the ground, according to the state office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
"A few operations were able to start planting corn, but most were forced out of the fields by rain" last week, the agency reported.
The good news: Soil moisture levels have largely recovered from last year's drought.
Statewide, 70 percent of the topsoil has adequate moisture and 25 percent has surplus moisture. Only 5 percent is short or very short.
The subsoil isn't in quite as good shape. About 75 percent has adequate moisture, 4 percent has surplus moisture and 21 percent is either short or very short.
In the state's eastern region, which includes Champaign and Vermilion counties, 99 percent of the topsoil has adequate moisture, as does 82 percent of the subsoil. Only 18 percent of the subsoil is short or very short of moisture.
Profs make biocrude from swine manure
URBANA — Professors at the University of Illinois have developed a system to produce biocrude oil from swine manure.
But they're still working on ways to market it.
The manure is converted into crude oil through use of a hydrothermal liquefaction reactor, said Lance Schideman, who has been working with colleague Yuanhui Zhang on the technology.
"The crude oil is similar to, but not exactly like, petroleum," Schideman said in a UI release, noting the crude generally has higher oxygen and nitrogen content and lower sulfur content than traditional petroleum.
Bridge markets will be needed for biocrude oil products, he added. One possible market involves blending light fractions of the oil into existing fuels.
Don't expect the biocrude to be handled by conventional refineries any time soon.
"Refineries need hundreds of thousands of barrels of material each day," Schideman said. "We have material, but not that much — and you don't want to build or modify a refinery unless you have more material."
Zhang and Schideman are both professors in the UI's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
Area seats open on commodity boards
SPRINGFIELD — Area farmers have opportunities this year to run for three-year terms on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the Illinois Sheep and Wool Marketing Board.
Corn marketing board members are due to be elected in District 6, which includes Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties, and in District 12, a seven-county region that includes Coles, Douglas and Edgar counties.
The sheep and wool marketing board has scheduled the election of a member from an 11-county district that includes DeWitt, McLean and Moultrie counties.
Petitions are available at county Extension offices and from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Corn board candidates must return the petitions by May 15, while sheep and wool board candidates have until May 31 to turn in their petitions.
Elections for both boards will be July 2. Candidates must be at least 18 years old, live in the district in which they're running and have a history of producing and marketing that commodity.
Agriculture training offered to teachers
MATTOON — Lake Land College will offer two Ag Institute sessions this summer for area elementary and secondary school teachers who want to learn more about agriculture.
The first institute will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 10-12 and will include tours of area agribusinesses and farms.
The second institute will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 17-19 and will cover new technologies and research, plus concepts such as sustainability and alternative agriculture.
Lake Land ag instructors Jon Althaus, Ryan Orrick and Dyke Barkley will coordinate the sessions.
The sessions are free, but registration is required. To register, go to http://www.lakeland.cc.il.us/as/ag/institute.