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Area crop prediction yields a mixed bag

Farmers: Conditions more favorable for corn than beans

Published: Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 11:44 p.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot -
Harry Alten of Harvard examines an ear of corn Friday at his farm in Harvard. According to Alten, the wet, cold spring followed by a dry June was not good for the corn, although the crops seem to be doing well now. He also said that while you can make educated guesses on how the crops are doing, the only time it really matters is when you go to cash them in.
(Kyle Grillot -
Harry and Dennis Alten of Harvard examine an ear of corn Friday at their farm in Harvard. The Alten family has been farming in the area since 1956, and only in the past two decades has switched to primarily corn and soybean crops.

Expectations are high for corn and soybeans this year, but area farmers say it’s too early to tell just how well the crops will do.

Michele Aavang said she couldn’t yet hazard a yield estimate for her own crop in Woodstock, but did say conditions were ripe for good news – at least for corn.

“Overall, corn looks great,” said Aavang, who is president of the McHenry County Farm Bureau. “Corn likes it a little cooler, so it’s liked the relatively cooler temperatures we’ve had.”

Soybeans, however, might be another story.

“I would just call them OK,” she said. “They like it hotter – around 90 degrees during the day ... and we just haven’t had that.”

At the start of the month, it was projected statewide corn yields could get up to 188 bushels per acre, up 10 bushels from 2013, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release.

If realized, the Aug. 12 release said Illinois’ corn yield would set a state record, surpassing 180 bushels per acre in 2004.

The USDA estimated soybeans at 54 bushels compared to 49 in 2013.

The statewide projections exceed yields from previous years in McHenry County, with last year’s countywide corn yield at 160 bushels per acre, 2012’s at 124 and 2011’s at 175.

Despite having a mostly sunny outlook for the 2014 harvest, Aavang said it’s not all good news.

Fairly depressed markets in recovery after the 2012 drought mean it’s expected to be a low-revenue year.

The latest USDA estimates, released Thursday, have set Illinois corn at $3.70 per bushel – equal to the national price – compared to 2013’s $6.09 in Illinois.

“It would be nice to have high yield and high demand,” Aavang said. “But this year, it’s just not going to happen. We’ll have good yields, but fall short on the price.”

Harry Alten of Alten Farms Inc. in Harvard echoed similar concerns.

“High yield is a good thing if we got a good market,” he said. “But grain prices are down quite a bit, and that’s because we have an anticipated oversupply.”

However, Alten said crop yield on his own farm likely won’t hit the projected heights of 180 bushels or above.

Just walking the field, his off-the-wall corn yield estimate was 130 to 140 bushels per acre this year.

“Driving around the county, it looks like there were some areas that drowned out in the spring, but it still looks relatively good,” Alten said. “As far as our particular farm, it’s going to be alright for us, but not exactly a bin-buster year.”

It’s hard to tell before harvest, he said, especially with weather being the most significant, yet most unpredictable factor.

That said, next month will be crucial, Aavang added.

“As far as corn and beans go, the key will be September,” she said. “Corn is starting to fill out nicely, and beans – we’ll have to see what happens with beans. If it stays wet, beans will see more mold. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

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