By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — The trick was at farmers’ expense when a historic Halloween storm brought heavy rainfall to farmers in southern Illinois and up to six inches of snow and ice to crop fields in central and northern Illinois, literally freezing the state’s corn and soybean harvests in place.
The deep-freeze, which saw temperatures in central Illinois plummet to 21 degrees Halloween morn, came at a time when the Illinois corn harvest was just 54 percent complete and soybean harvest 69 percent complete due to late planting caused by spring time rainfall and floods.
Now, it appears many crops will not come out of the ground in Illinois until soils grow harder from descending temperatures and the first freeze, further extending the harvest of 2019.
Dekalb County farmer Mark Tuttle, who is also the northern Illinois county’s farm bureau manager, said between 4 and 6 inches of freezing rain and snow were covering his crops on Oct. 31. “It’s the rain — we’ve had so much rain. We have (harvested) some beans, but we haven’t done any corn yet. Corn is still really wet, and a lot of it is still in the upper 30 percent (moisture) range. We are approaching 17 inches of moisture since September 1,” Tuttle reported. “It’s just terrible.”
In addition to impacts on his corn and soybean progress, good quality hay will likely be scarce on his farm going into that harvest, Tuttle added. “We’re in a bad situation.”
Echoing reports from around the state, Tuttle said his early-planted corn produced satisfactorily. It’s his late-planted corn that is in jeopardy, Tuttle said. “Beans are all over the board. One field is good and the other is poor, with yield averages running 20-70 bushels per acre. My harvest will continue to drag out until probably Christmas. We have a long way to go.”
Tim Harris, executive manager for Capital Ag in Princeton (Bureau County), said a lot of June-planted corn still remains in the ground in the north-central Illinois county. “The moisture of the corn is higher than it should be, and after the next weather break the guys are going to have to take it down and pay drying costs,” Harris said. “There are areas where there are quite a few acres of soybeans to harvest as well. We were a month behind getting the crop in the ground, and now we are a month behind in getting it out.”
Corn moisture levels in Bureau County are ranging from 25 to 31 percent, according to Harris. “A lot of it is on the upper end, at 27-29 percent moisture. Early-planted corn and soybeans are producing well, however, with a lot of 60-65 bushel beans coming out of the field.”
Six to seven inches of snow fell in Bureau County during the final days of October, Harris observed. “We’re kind of concerned right now.”
Don Guinnip farms in far-eastern Illinois, west of Terre Haute, Ind., in Clark County where producers have endured some of the harshest weather conditions that 2019 has had to offer. “We’ve had snow, sleet, wind and rain. Harvest is about half to 60 percent done, I would say. I have about 160 acres of beans left that were planted, replanted and replanted again in July. I probably have the same amount of corn left to harvest, most of it planted the first week of June The late planting has really had a tell-tale effect on crops this fall, and we’re going to spend a little bit taking crops to the elevator to dry,” said Guinnip.
“This snowfall certainly isn’t going to help things when you are talking about soybeans,” said Bradley Clow, crop operations manager for Country Financial in McLean County in central Illinois. “We still have quite a few acres out in the field and they are at a stage now where they are more and more susceptible. They may have to freeze before the farmers can get out there and get them harvested. The majority of the corn planted in the beginning of the season is producing good yields. Other crops are struggling, and it is all across the board here. Now it’s just a matter of getting them out of the field.”
Garrett Hawkins, a southern Illinois farmer from Waterloo in Monroe County, said planting issues in the spring led to a delay in his harvest. “We are on the Mississippi River bottoms and have experienced a lot of flooding,” he said. “2019 has been a struggle all the way through. Our corn and beans were very late-planted. Yield-wise, we haven’t done too bad on our harvest. But now I have about half of my soybeans left, and it is very wet again.”
The snow that hit central and northern Illinois avoided southern Illinois, Hawkins said, though temperatures plunged to below 30 degrees during the final hours of October.
Fellow southern Illinois producer Tim Lenz adds: “I have 30 acres of beans to cut but will probably have to wait for the ground to freeze because it’s a really wet field. I have 40 percent of my corn to harvest. Bean yields are 20 bushels below last year and corn is 40 bushels below last year. We have received seven inches of rain in the last three weeks.”
Prior to the nearly four inches of snow that blanketed central Illinois on Halloween, Peoria County Farm Bureau Manager Patrick Kirchhofer estimated that 80 percent of soybeans had been harvested there, most coming in with a moisture content of around 13 percent. “As far as corn, I would estimate that 60 percent of it is harvested. Moisture levels in corn are more of a concern as corn is dry at 15 percent and most is still over 20 percent. There will be additional expense to farmers in drying down the corn crop this year,” he said.
The Halloween snowfall of nearly four inches in Peoria set a new record for the date and for the month of October. It eclipsed the prior record of “trace” amounts of snow on Oct. 31, 1918 and three inches for the entire month of October, according to meteorologist Chuck Collins of WEEK-TV.