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Deep concern for central Illinois corn planting

Agriculture.com Staff 05/18/2009 @ 11:54am

CAMP GROVE, Illinois (Agriculture Online) -- Every Saturday, farmers in this area gather for a cup of coffee, or "some other drink," at Curry's.

And lately, because of the heavy rains totaling between 6 and 7 inches in the past week, the local tavern/restaurant/coffee shop is a lot more crowded.

As the farmers pile in, they find their "regular" seat at the bar or at one of the four round tables that seats about six each.

To cheer up the crowd, Jill Stotler, the hard-working waitress, hands out a typed "agenda" and calls the very informal farmer meeting to order. With a big smile, she announces dues will be picked up at the end of the meeting. "Now, what do you want to drink?" she asks.

The coffee shop talk nowadays is mainly focused on the flooded fields, forecasts, and the area crop consultant's opinion of whether to plant late corn or switch to soybeans.

David Mowers owns Raemow, Inc., a crop consulting business that serves most of the farmers in this area.

"I've been consulting around here since 1978 and this is the wettest I've seen it. There are a lot of fields, in this part of the state, that haven't seen one corn kernel planted. And it's the middle of May," Mowers says.

In a normal planting season, farmers in the Stark/Marshall County area of central Illinois are done planted by May 15. Stark, ranked fourth in the state for the largest yield, is the second smallest county in Illinois. Marshall ranks in the top 10 for highest corn yields.

"This silty, clay-loam soil is very productive farmland," Mowers says. These farmers can average between 210-240 bushels of corn in any given year. So, they (farmers) will wait until the last minute to switch corn acres to soybeans."

Asked about their concerns over the delayed planting season, there is a long silence among the farmers.

Wearing a NK seedcorn hat, bib overalls with a pliers holder on the hip, one farmer shouts from the other side of the room, "It's wet, what are we supposed to do?"

Yet another farmer sitting at my table says, "I've got 290 acres of corn planted and I wish it was still in the bag. I'm concerned all of this water will knock 50 bushels off the top of this year's yield."

Tim Green, a local corn/soybean/wind farmer, says switching this year's acres from corn to soybeans is a real dilemma. "This is corn country. I'm hearing guys say they will wait until mid-June before they switch. If we keep getting rain, that attitude might change."

CAMP GROVE, Illinois (Agriculture Online) -- Every Saturday, farmers in this area gather for a cup of coffee, or "some other drink," at Curry's.

Mowers and I jumped in his pickup for a tour of the flooded fields. Ironically, the first pick-up driving by had a local seed salesman at the wheel. After each driver rolls their windows down, the salesman admits he had his first customer switch 80 acres of corn to soybeans.

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