If Piatt County receives some timely rain in the next few weeks, some local farmers think they could come within 10 percent of an average crop. But that’s a best-case scenario after a precipitation-heavy spring was followed by a fairly dry summer.
“It’s gone from one extreme to another,” said Shannon Carroll, who farms in Piatt and Macon counties. He points out that, after getting some acreage planted in April, the remainder of his crop went in the ground about three weeks late due to excessive rain.
“Now it’s looking like we need rain. We’re actually pretty desperate for rain,” he added.
That’s the case for most county farmers this year, who averaged 241.8 bushels per acre for corn in 2018.
This year they are hoping for 200 bpa or above, compared to the 225 they have averaged locally over the past five years.
Nationally, Accu-Weather is predicting a 9.3 percent decline in the corn yield when compared to last year. A USDA report issued Monday also predicts a sharp drop in yields this year – the report estimates that, nationally, corn yields will drop about seven bushels per acre from the 169.5 bpa average.
Topflight Grain Cooperative Merchandizer Derrick Bruhn agrees.
“Our early indications are that corn and bean yields will be 10 to 15 percent lower than last year, in which we had some of the best yields ever,” he said. Topflight will conduct its annual crop tour on Sept. 3 to get a better gauge of this year’s crop production.
And while the focus has been on one of the latest planting cycles in recent memory, Bruhn points out that’s just where the potential problems started.
“The late planting typically lowers the yield potential, but all other weather variables are just as important,” he said. “We had a warm spell in mid-July while some of the corn was pollinating that has some producers concerned, but the most recent dryness is likely more detrimental.”
Soybean planting was not quite as late, but Bruhn said the crops did not have the typical heat and growth early in the plant cycle that is expected.
Soybean estimates are more difficult to peg at this point due to being earlier in the growth cycle, but there is concern they could be susceptible to an early frost due to so many seeds being put in the ground in July.
Monday’s USDA report expects the nationwide soybean yields to be 3.1 bushels per acre below the average of 48.5 bpa.
The report also estimates acreage planted and harvested to be the lowest since 1998.
The late plant dates have meant lower condition ratings when compared to 2018. Corn is rated as 40 percent excellent and good compared to 76 percent in those categories at the same time last year. A total of 389percent is rated as fair (18 percent in 2018), 16 percent poor (4) and 5 percent very poor (2).
For soybeans, 39 percent is rated excellent or good (74 percent in 2018), 38 percent fair (19), 17 percent poor (4) and 6 percent very poor (3).
Carroll said crop prices will dictate how productive this year’s crop is for farmers. It will be easier to stomach a lower harvest if commodity prices are the $4.50 for corn that was registered in a mid-July surge.
But prices have dropped closer to $4 in early August, despite the prospect of less grain being produced. Experts peg some of that to the uncertainty of exports due to current trade and tariff disputes with China and other nations.
If prices drop much more, Carroll said “we won’t even cover expenses. Not even close.”
Piatt County yields over the last five years, according to United States Department of Agriculture estimate:
Year Corn Soybeans
2018 241.8 73.2
2017 216.7 70.3
2016 218.7 71.3
2015 220.5 73.1
2014 235.2 69.2