Early Illinois corn harvest brings smaller yields

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The Illinois corn harvest is defying the calendar. In some cases, it's running up to three weeks early. But farmers are expecting to bring in less corn.

As a combine cuts through rows of corn at Rob Elliott's farm outside of Monmouth, the fall ritual is starting early. That's after a rough beginning to the growing season.

"It was just too wet," he recalled. "That put corn under stress."

So while the harvest is on, don't expect a bumper crop here.

"We've been blessed in this area the last couple of years with very high yields," he said. "This year, we'll be back below average probably."

These are lessons for visiting farmers as they ride through the Monsanto Agronomy Center. Cotton farmers are learning about corn growing techniques, and they seem to be sharing regional similarities when it comes to the weather.

"It's brought the corn harvest about early, and it also did that in our area with cotton," said Stacy Smith, a farmer from Wilson, Texas. "Interesting that it has the same effect on both crops."

Farmers have already harvested about a quarter of the corn crop in central and eastern Illinois. That's well above the five year average and certainly topping the late harvest in 2009.

Above normal temperatures are advancing the harvest season. It's true in Illinois and North Carolina.

"There was just so much heat and sunlight this year that it pushed everything along by two to three weeks," said Gary Respess, a farmer from Pantego, North Carolina.

Back at Rob Elliott's farm, he's bracing for a hit.

"When we're talking $3 or $4 bushels of corn -- when you're off by 30 or 40 bushels an acre, in some cases, there's certainly a financial impact," he said.

It's an impact shaping this early harvest as the combine continues its yearly ritual.