$9 corn?

Inside Dakota Ag

From 8,000 feet up, I thought I was seen different soils. It turned out to be corn burning up in Illinois' drought.

Published on: August 30, 2011

You probably could tell that I haven’t been out of the Dakotas for a while when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the fields in Illinois.

From 8,000 feet up, in the commuter plane I was riding from Chicago to Decatur, Ill., to work at our company’s Farm Progress Show, I could pick out the hay fields easy enough. The windrows were as clear as a bell. But there were deep green fields and light green fields. Obviously, one was corn and the other was soybeans. But which was which? The light green fields had brown or reddish splotches throughout them. It almost looked like a different colored soil, which is pretty typical in the Dakotas. Boy, these guys could make use of some variable rate fertilizer application, I thought.

But as the plane descended into Decatur, it became clear that the rough looking fields were corn, and red swirls were not different soils. Instead, the red-brown swirls were corn plants that were nearly ripe. Much of Illinois crop is starting to turn or is burning up. No rain has fallen in some places in Illinois in six weeks and the crop endured several weeks of 100 degree weather right during pollination.

Once we got to the ground and I got out to the Farm Progress Show, I heard people talking about yields – 150 bushels per acre at best in a part of the country where yields less than 200 bushels per acre are a disappointment.

Farm Futures – which is part of the magazine group that includes Dakota Farmer – just came out with its projection on the corn yield for the U.S. The magazine’s economists and crop watchers put it at 146 bushels per acre. That’s lower than USDA’s last estimate.

“We might see $9 corn this year,” said Mike Wilson, Farm Future’s editor, who lives in Decatur. From what I saw on my plane ride south of Chicago, he might be right.