That's cool: An atypical July

CHAMPAIGN — July is supposed to be the hottest month of the year in central Illinois.

Not this year.

The average temperature so far this month in Champaign is 70.4 degrees, or almost 5 degrees below the historical average of 75. It's also lower than last month's average temperature in Champaign-Urbana — 73.4 degrees.

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?

Ready for a FAIR bit of fun

URBANA — There's more music and a new ride at the 2014 Champaign County Fair.

Among the bands are Blackjack Billy — with their big hit "Booze Cruise" — the Feudin' Hillbillys, Blackberry Smoke featuring Matt Poss Band and Scotty McCreery featuring Gracia Harrison.

How sweet it is

URBANA — Whether you like it boiled, grilled or ripped right from the stalk and eaten fresh, now is the time to start loading up on local sweet corn from area roadside stands and farmers markets.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the folks at Griest's stand off High Cross Road in Urbana pick the ears around 5:30 a.m. and start selling them around 3 p.m. until they're out.

AUDIO: recent rain impacts local crops

AUDIO: recent rain impacts local crops: Play now!

The head of Champaign County Farm Bureau says the recent heavy rain we've experienced in East Central Illinois has had a mostly positive effect on corn but not as much on soybeans. Michael Kiser reports.


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Energy firm takes steps toward expansion of biodiesel facility

DANVILLE — Although there are no specific plans for expansion, Renewable Energy Group Inc. has purchased several lots next to its Danville biodiesel production facility and is asking the city to vacate alleys and portions of streets in the area and change the zoning from residential to industrial.

WEED DATING: Mixing farming and friendship

You've heard of speed dating? Well, a Champaign-based group that promotes sustainable agriculture is offering a new twist, called "weed dating."

"We're doing it to help people meet other like-minded people who are interested in sustainable agriculture for both friendship and dating," said Magdalena Casper-Shipp, office manager and program coordinator for The Land Connection.

Regulators look at increased drone use

By Claire Everett and Robert Holly/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

DECATUR — Rather than a field of dreams, it looks like the future of farms is a field of drones.

Experts predict that the agriculture industry may soon account for roughly half of all drone flights in the United States.

Historic Farm Days kicks off in Penfield

What sweetcorn is to Hoopeston and soda is to Homer, tractors will be to Penfield the next four days. Today kicks off Historic Farm Days, another of East Central Illinois' annual mark-your-calendars, must-see festivals, featuring tractors of all shapes and sizes, makes and models. Three things to know about the pride of Penfield (population: 193), care of Rantoul Press editor DAVE HINTON:

Winter, water hurt some of state's wheat crop

TOLONO — Area wheat farmers are starting to harvest their crops and, in some cases, finding their yields have been reduced by a harsh winter and wet spring.

John Little, who planted about 40 acres of wheat in the Tolono area, said he expects his yields to be "near average."

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