Slimmer pickin's for area crops

Bad weather hurts local and state corn, soybean production; Carroll County has strong yields

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Heavy rain and flooding led to a decline in corn and soybean production and yields in the Sauk Valley from 2018.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week released estimates in both crops for the number of acres planted and harvested, yields per acre and total bushel production.

Last year says the wettest January through June on record in Illinois, as well as the wettest May, according to the National Weather Service. This delayed corn and soybean planting for up to a couple of months, and yields declined as a result.

It was a tough year, and "exhausting" for farmers to deal with, Lee County Farm Bureau Manager Danielle Burrs said.

"With farming, they always know that at the end of the day Mother Nature is in control of a lot of things," she said. "They can do a lot of things on their own to make the best decisions that they can, but Mother Nature plays a huge role in it."


Whiteside, Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties combined for about 746,500 acres of corn planted and 727,300 harvested in 2019.

It's a decrease from 813,500 planted acres in 2018 and 798,700 harvested. In all, 97.43% of acres planted were harvested, down 0.75%.

Total bushels in the four counties dropped from 166.5 million to 139.1 million, and average yield dipped from 209.28 bushels an acre to 192.68.

"Naturally, with a decrease in production you have less bushels to sell," Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said. "When you planted the crop, you utilized your input costs to grow, say 200 bushels an acre, but you only harvested 180. That cost of inputs is difficult to make up."

Statewide, total acreage of harvested crops dipped 5.6% from 10.8 million to 10.2 million. At 9.1%, the percentage of loss is higher in the USDA's Northwest Illinois district, which encompasses Lee, Ogle, Whiteside, Carroll, Bureau, Henry, Jo Daviess, Mercer, Putnam, Rock Island, Stephenson and Winnebago counties. Whiteside was down 15% in harvested acreage losses from 226,000 to 192,000; Lee's numbers shrunk by 10.6% from 233,500 to 208,000.

Average corn yield – bushel production divided by harvested acres – in the Northwest division decreased from 211.7 to 188.5 bushels per acre.

Carroll County registered the second-highest corn yield in the state at 206.1 bushels per acre, which is behind Sangamon County's 206.3. Average yields of 200 or greater were tallied in just eight counties, down from 34 in 2018; Carroll had the smallest decrease among those.

"We were more fortunate in our area as yields didn’t see the drastic loss that other areas of the state did," Carroll County Farm Bureau Manager Chastity Welch said.

Alexander County, at the southern tip of Illinois, saw the biggest drop in corn production, 62%.


Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties declined from 390,000 to 265,000 acres planted, and from 378,700 to 259,800 harvested.

Total bushels in those three counties dropped from 24.3 million to 15.7 million, and average yield dipped from 86.5 to 61.4 bushels per acre.

Unlike with corn, the number of acres harvested rose in the Northwest district, up 1.1% from 2018. The acreage of harvested crops statewide dipped 6.1% from 10.5 million to 9.9 million.

Ogle County had the largest dip in harvested acres in the area, down 12.6%, from 112,700 to 98,600. Lee and Carroll registered single-digit declines.

Like corn, Carroll County's soybean yield of 64.7 bushels per acre was the second-best in Illinois, behind Sangamon County's 65.5.

Soybean numbers for Whiteside County were not specifically totaled for 2019; 7.8 million bushels were harvested among Whiteside, Putnam and Rock Island counties, where data is lumped together to protect individual farms from competition, USDA statistician Micah Lorusso said.

"It would have been too personally identifiable for an individual operation," Lorusso said. "A process of elimination can figure out who the other major landholders are, and what their yields are."

Moving forward

Adding to the loss of crop value, worldwide trade disputes have affected the market and demand for agricultural products prices remain depressed, Kern said.

"Folks need to sharpen their pencils this year and develop a good crop marketing plan in order to capture any profits during the marketing year," he said.

Burrs, Kern and Welch all agreed that this planting year will be just like any other with their end result being determined by whatever cards are dealt by weather.

Unfortunate situations such as last year's results have forced farmers to plan tighter budgets, do more with less and be more mindful about what they're spending, Burrs said.

"That is going to potentially affect some of their decisions," she said."This year they will do what they can to get caught back up on inputs that may not have been completed in the fall," Welch said. "They will also pray for a better year from Mother Nature.

"It is all cyclical. Small tweaks may be made but when it comes down to it, they will be farming as usual."


Corn production, by county:

Carroll, 2019: 128,500 acres harvested out of 133,000 planted; 206.1 average yield; 26,485,000 total bushels

Lee, 2019: 208,000 acres harvested out of 211,500 planted; 181.4 average yield; 37,735,000 total bushels

Ogle, 2019: 204,000 acres harvested out of 210,000 planted; 191.2 average yield; 39,009,000 total bushels

Whiteside, 2019: 186,800 acres harvested out of 192,000 planted; 192.0 average yield; 35,870,000 total bushels


Carroll, 2018: 130,700 acres harvested out of 134,000 planted; 217.1 average yield; 28,379,000 total bushels

Lee, 2018: 223,500 acres harvested out of 226,500 planted; 205.9 average yield; 48,089,000 total bushels

Ogle, 2018: 211,500 acres harvested out of 217,000 planted; 198.2 average yield; 41,910,000 total bushels

Whiteside, 2018: 223,000 acres harvested out of 226,000 planted; 215.9 average yield; 48,137,000 total bushels


Soybean production, by county:

Carroll, 2019: 38,700 acres harvested out of 39,000 planted; 64.7 average yield; 2,505,000 total bushels

Lee, 2019: 122,500 acres harvested out of 126,500 planted; 59.7 average yield; 7,311,000 total bushels

Ogle, 2019: 98,600 acres harvested out of 99,500 planted; 59.9 average yield; 5,905,000 total bushels


Carroll, 2018: 42,600 acres harvested out of 44,000 planted; 68.9 average yield; 2,935,000 total bushels

Lee, 2018: 132,200 acres harvested out of 136,000 planted; 63.7 average yield; 8,427,000 total bushels

Ogle, 2018: 112,700 acres harvested out of 116,000 planted; 64.3 average yield; 7,241,000 total bushels

Whiteside, 2018: 91,200 acres harvested out of 94,000 planted; 62.7 average yield; 5,721,000 total bushels

Note: Whiteside County's 2019 soybean estimates were not released.