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Drought Hit Western IL Crops Unevenly

Mar 5, 2013

Recently released numbers by the USDA show that the drought affected crop yields last hear differently across Western Illinois.

Corn yields in McDonough and Mason counties were down thirty bushels per acre from last year.  Adams and Pike County were down 60 bushels while Mercer County was actually up twenty.

Mark Bernards, a Crop Science professor at Western Illinois University said counties received different amounts rain and that was the main cause for the differences.

Credit ag.purdue.edu

He says corn has a two week period in the spring when in pollinates, in which rain is critical.

"Part of it is just the way that corn works," Bernards said, " if it's dry or stressed at the time of pollination which is a week or two weeks in any given field, it can have a dramatic impact on yield."

Credit Mark Bernards - WIU Agriculture

Bernards said soybeans were less affected by the drought because they have a wider window of time in which they can benefit from rain. He says hurricane Isaac was able to bring much needed rain at the end of August. 

Even though rainfall had the most impact on yields, the differences in soil types across Western Illinois also made a difference. Bernards said  south of McDonough county top-soils are thinner and able to hold less moisture, which may account for part of the lower yields in places like Schuyler and Pike counties.

Bernards said this drought season may cause farmers to changes their tillage systems to things like conservation tillage and no-tillage. These  leave more residue from the previous year's crop in the field which helps hold moisture in the soil.

Data for the crop yield map provided by the University of Illinois' Hill and Furrow Blog.