Grain News

Drought Reduces Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin Corn and Soybean Yields

Date Posted: October 6, 2005

By Robert Brice, Grainnet editor

Drought ranging from severe to extreme plagued corn and soybean crops in northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin this season.

Stretching east of Chicago, IL all the way to the Iowa border, the worst of the drought stayed north of Interstate 80 reaching just north of the Illinois border with Wisconsin.

With the drought came the fear of a total loss for some.

While yields for some were indeed nonexistent, however, other farmers have been finding yields better than expected.

The drought appears to range from pockets of devastation to slices of land that were only down slightly from last year's bumper crop.

Owner Chris Gorman of Racine Grain Co., Inc., Union Grove, WI, said the further north one travels, the better the yield.

He said the soybean harvest is 65% to 70% complete, in this the southeastern part of the state. The size of the crop here is down 25% from last year.

Just to the north, the soybeans are ranging 35 bushels per acre (bpa) to 40 bpa. To the south, near the border with Illinois, soybean yields are between 20 bpa and 25 bpa.

Gorman expects to finish the soybean harvest by the end of the week.

The corn harvest is just getting started, he said, about 5%.

"The drought hit us pretty hard," he said.

The area averaged 135 bpa to 150 bpa on corn yields the last few years. This season will average around 130 bpa in the north and from 80 bpa to 90 bpa in the south.

In the southwestern part of Wisconsin, the drought is just as severe.

A representative with an elevator in the Shullsburg, WI area who declined to give his name said the corn harvest is only about 15% complete. "We are hearing horror stories. It just depends on where you are," he said commenting on projected yields. "The soil will have a big effect," he said.

If the area saw corn yields in the 150-bpa neighborhood, most folks would be happy, he believes.

Last year, the area had yields ranging from 180 bpa to 200 bpa.

Last year was a better-than-average year. But the corn this year won't come close to that mark.

He said some of the "bigger guys" are in a "hurry-up mode," wasting no time harvesting the corn, but some of the average and smaller-sized farmers are waiting to begin harvesting.

Over 60% of the soybeans in this area have been harvested, with yields ranging from 45 bpa to 50 bpa.

Last season, this area’s soybean yields average 55 bpa to 60 bpa.

"It's spotty," he said. "Some areas are looking worse than others. We know the drought hit us hard, but the further east you go, the worse it is."

According to Premier Coop Assistant Manager Dave Jacobson in Mt. Horeb, WI, there will be huge differences in yields from one farm to the next.

"On some fields, some guys won't get anything off, but there is not as much of that as everyone thought," Jacobson said.

He expects the corn to average anywhere from 70 bpa to 200 bpa.

Last year, the area saw yields averaging 160 bpa to 180 bpa.

He said the beans are averaging 40 bpa to 50 bpa.

Farm City Elevator Manager Jim Goodger, Milton, WI, in the south central portion of the state, said the soybean harvest is winding down.

"It is about 75% to 80% complete," he explained.

He said yields there are wide ranging--anywhere from 35 bpa to 70 bpa.

Those numbers are similar to last year's, he said.

The corn harvest here is 10% to 20% complete.

Goodger said the corn will be down a little from last year.

"It is down a little, but way better than expected," he said.

This area had a very good year like last year, with corn yielding 120 bpa to 185 bpa.

Northern Illinois

According to Randy Julius, branch manager, Pearl City Elevator, Inc. in Baileyville, IL, the corn harvest is just getting started.

"We are only about 10% into the corn harvest," he explained.

Julius said the corn in his area is ranging from "poor to 180 bpa," and the soybeans are "all over the place."

"We were in a hard-hit area, but I'd say the soybeans are doing a little better than expected."

With the soybean harvest 65% to 75% complete, Julius has a strong handle on the numbers.

Soybeans numbers in this area, while wide-ranging, are coming in anywhere from 20 bpa to 65 bpa.

Julius said going from last year's bumper to the drought this year is like going from one extreme to the other.

Last year's corn yielded 170 bpa to 230 bpa, while the soybeans last season yielded 50 bpa to 60 bpa.

He expects the harvest to be completed fairly early.

Ten miles south of Dixon is the Walton Elevator Co., where Tom Drew is president.

This is an area hit hard by the drought.

While Drew wouldn't comment specifically on yields, he did shed light onto how, despite the drought, corn yields are, in some areas, better than expected.

"The drought was in streaks," he said.

"The yields are better than anticipated," he added. "For not having any rain, we are doing all right."

Drew said even if the yields aren't there, the acres are.

"There was just more corn planted in this area this year. You can drive down the road and have corn on both sides of you for three miles."

Drew also said this is the latest farmers have waited in 25 years to harvest. He believes the reason for that is because of the low crop prices and the high cost of fuel.

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