This year’s planting, growing and harvest seasons has challenged Grundy County farmers with extreme swings between wet conditions and dry conditions.
Spring hosted several unusually warm days, where farmers could get in and plant, but then colder weather and extensive rains caused farmers to hold off on corn and soybean planting, or caused some to replant three to four weeks after the optimal planting time.
Typically, farmers tend to plant corn toward the end of April, and while some farmers were successful, the rain came in and forced a replant for some. Jim Bedeker, who farms near Morris and Seneca, said he planted the third week of April and then the rains came and fields along a river flooded, which caused to him to replant 40 percent of his corn crop.
Steve Kodat, a 25-year farmer near Morris, said his corn planting was right on schedule in the third week in April and he got the majority of the corn in – and then it rained and rained and rained, he said.
With the cool weather that came after the rain, he had emergence problems and had to replant his corn the third week in May, which was a month after his usual plant date.
Corn and soybean farmer Rob Nelson was caught up in what became a typical planting season for farmers in the county. He was able to get some corn in the ground in April, but then had to turn around and finish at the end of May.
Because of the target date of soybean planting being near the end of May, farmers have said the soybeans went in toward that set date.
The summer proved to be a cool one with very few days that hit the 90-degree mark. Kodat said this cooler weather slowed his crop maturation, which caused his corn and soybeans to fall behind harvest schedule.
As summer progressed, rain was not as prevalent as in past years and the farmers said that by late August and September, temperatures began to soar higher and the ground was parched.
“Mother Nature was not cooperating this year. Normally if we have a rough spring, we have a good fall, but it’s been rough. She’s been ornery this year,” Nelson said.
Because of the wet spring, late plant dates and cool weather that slowed the maturation of the plants, harvest, which usually takes place in mid to late September, was pushed back to October. Farm equipment was found in the fields in early October to harvest the crop when heavy intermittent rains caused combines to come out of the fields and stop, and each rain would delay the farmers one to two days.
“It’s been a challenging year with wet weather early, then extremely dry and then wet again in October,” Bedeker said. “As dry as it was, I was hoping for a nice dry harvest. At first, with the ground being so dry, the fields dried out quickly, but now the ground is so saturated, along with cooler temperatures and no wind.”
Nelson said the rule of thumb for going back to harvest depends on moisture levels in the field and in the crop. He said a farmer does not want to take machinery out and mud the field, meaning create large ruts that have to be worked out at a later date.
He also said the soybeans need a day or two to dry after rain with a 13 percent moisture level perfect for harvesting. Nelson said some farmers will combine at 15 percent if they have a bin with aeration in the floor to dry them out.
With corn, Nelson said, the ideal moisture level was 17 percent, but farmers will go in and combine at 26 percent or 27 percent and once again, put it in a bin with air. He said most bins can dry the corn in enough time to keep up with the combine, so that factor does not typically slow him down.
Nelson said his beans were average for yields this year, but his corn yield surprisingly was above average.
“It had plenty of rain, not too hot during the growing season and then started to turn dry, not hot, which was less stress on the plant. More nutrients were in the corn kernel, which made them bigger as well,” Nelson said.
Kodat said his corn was better than expected because of the replant, but he had not yet made it to the fields near Interstate 55 near Joliet, where the land was drier, so he was not sure what to expect with that crop as of late October. He worries now about big winds coming in and knocking over the plants which have been upright for a longer period of time because of the late harvest.
Kodat said that as of late October, the corn still stood – but only time would tell on how the rest of the harvest would pan out.
Bedeker said he was satisfied with this soybean yield and he said his replanted corn did better than the corn he planted in April.
“I’m still trying to figure that out,” he said. “I think the first plant was cold and wet and it came up slow, which stressed out the plants.”
As of late October, the rains were heavy and stopped harvest. During the last week of October, temperatures lowered, but the rain stopped to allow the ground to dry out and harvest resume.