Drought to deluge: corn challenges during past year

Monday’s rain and cool weather point out a remarkable contrast for farmers. They’ve gone from not nearly enough rain in 2012 to almost too much of it this year.

Ray Gillen is like a crop detective.

“It’s not a bad ear of corn,” he said.

For the most part, the veteran Warren County farmer likes what he sees. This Monmouth corn field is taking shape.

“They say, rain makes grain,” he continued.

But there are exceptions. On this unusually damp and cool August day, he notices bugs and blight.

“These little specks is what the fungus looks like,” he said.

Some parts of fields didn’t get planted at all. That will hurt chances for a bumper corn crop.

“Even a normal frost date this year could hurt this late corn,” he continued.

Last year to the day, some Henry County fields were parched by drought. It showed the stress of their worst crop in 25 years.

“This is how most of the field looked,” said Justin Weber, on August 6, 2012.

Growers decided to chop down the corn. Drought dried the plants and left them at a fraction of potential.

“An ear was starting to form, but it never did,” Weber said at the time.

But what a difference a year makes. Instead of giving up on the corn crop, nearly two-thirds of Illinois corn rates good to excellent.

Late planting this year will force a late harvest. Ray Gillen expects an average corn crop when he finally gets in his combine.

“We’re behind schedule,” he concluded. “It looks pretty, but it’s behind schedule.”

For this crop detective, deciphering this drought to deluge in just a year.

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