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Late harvest yields mixed results, area farmers say

Published: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 12:24 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 12:29 a.m. CDT

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John Bartman wakes up at 5 a.m., oils and repairs his equipment – and once the dew evaporates – harvests his crops.

Even on rainy days such as the ones last week, the Marengo-area farmer has plenty to do, tilling the soil and preparing for the next round of crops.

“The 2013 harvest, it’s not a bumper crop, but unlike last year, we have something to harvest,” he said.

Some areas in McHenry County, in particular around Marengo where the soil is light and sandy, were hurt by the lack of rain in July and August, McHenry County Farm Bureau manager Dan Volkers said.

Bartman’s average yield was about 20 percent to 25 percent off the average, he said. Typically, he can get 130 bushels of corn off an acre, but this year he’s lucky to see 100 bushels.

But Volkers said he is hearing good reports out of the rest of the county.

McHenry County farmers plant about 100,000 acres of corn each year, 47,000 acres of soybeans and 7,000 acres of wheat, he said. An additional 5,000 acres to 10,000 acres are used as pasture for hay or alfalfa.

Dave Popenhagen, who farms in the Richmond area, was concerned entering the year because last year’s drought wiped out underground moisture.

“Fortunately, we had summer rains,” he said. “I think we’ll have a pretty good yield.”

The quality of soil can vary dramatically across Illinois, but Bartman expects that the rest of the state will see yields more on par with what Popenhagen is expecting.

This year’s corn is in much better condition than last year’s, with only 5 percent of corn in “very poor” condition, compared with 26 percent across the 18 top corn-producing states last year, according to a U.S. Agriculture Department crop progress report. The report, which is for the week ending Sept. 29, is the most recent report available due to the government shutdown.

Ninety percent of the corn in Illinois is considered in “fair” condition or better, the report said.

As for soybeans, nearly 90 percent of soybeans in Illinois are in “fair” or better condition, which puts the state on par with the average of the 18 states that produced 95 percent of last year’s acreage.

Across those 18 states, 11 percent of soybeans were considered in “very poor” or “poor” condition, compared with 33 percent last year.

A lot of any one crop typically means low prices for farmers, which will hurt farmers who didn’t have as good of a year.

A lot of the crop has yet to be harvested, according to Agriculture Department reports.

Bartman has a little less than halfway to go, and Popenhagen is about two to three weeks late.

Thirteen percent of corn in Illinois had been harvested by Sept. 29, down from 69 percent at this time last year and the five-year average of 34 percent.

Only 10 percent of Illinois’ soybeans had been harvested by Sept. 29, down from 20 percent at this time last year and the five-year average of 15 percent. 

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