Derecho will benefit local farmers

Shortly after the derecho tore through Illinois on June 29, Marty Marr stood in a corn field where 200 acres of his corn had been leveled by a powerful storm.

Around Marr his corn lay parallel to the ground. However, after seeing more of his land, Marr breathed a little easier.

“We’re very fortunate to have avoided any major damage,” said Marr, who farms east of Jacksonville near the border of Morgan and Sangamon counties with his wife Sheila, sons Martin Jr. and Evan and brother David.

“Some fields, besides the 200 acres east of New Berlin, were damaged, but nothing major. This happens from time to time and incidents like this show how important it is to have crop insurance,” Marr said. “Now we just go out, do our best and move on. We have a lot to be grateful for.”

With worries about problems in the export market, lower grain prices and attempts to push an ethanol stimulus bill through Congress, it seems the last thing farmers need is a devastating storm.

The National Weather Service said wind gusts of 70 to 110 mph swept across fields as the derecho moved through west-central Illinois. Along with the wind came hail and several tornadoes.

Marr said the tornado, which hovered over New Berlin, moved east and touched down in his field, which is two miles east of the village, flattening corn that was on the cusp of pollination.

While 200 acres of flattened corn represented the nadir, the news brought by the derecho clouds had a silver lining. Along with damaged buildings, downed trees and power lines came much-needed rain that allowed the corn crop to successfully pollinate.

“A lot of grain bins and buildings were damaged, which is not good, but the benefits of the rains outweighed the damage from the derecho winds,” Marr said.

Damage to most of the crop was nominal, said Chris Brown, field agronomist for Burrus Seeds, which has facilities in Ahrensville and Jacksonville.

“Having it happen in late June when Illinois was very dry — and Jacksonville was in that part — was fortunate,” Brown said.

The change in weather that came with the derecho ushered in a period of rain that saw central Illinois receive more rain in July than the previous three months, Brown said.

“Corn is vulnerable as it pollinates. Therefore, a system that caused rain was very necessary. It recharged the soil,” Brown said. “June 29 marked a turning point for the corn and soybean crops in Illinois. It was really drought stress and the rain it brought helped ensure successful pollination.”

The derecho caused lodging, which occurs when corn is blown away by the wind. Brown said the longer it takes between planting and pollination, the better for the corn. In some fields there was a green click when the stem broke. There will be no cure for this, and the plant will die.

In general, green snap is much less common than lodging, Brown said. After a derecho, you may find that the corn has 1% to 5% green flavor and the rest is mostly lodging.

“The corn on 200 acres was 30% to 40% green. All we can do is take it to harvest and see how it affects the yield,” Marr said.

“The corn was close to pollination, so the ear size should be good. That will determine how much we can get out of this field,” Marr said.

“Early planted corn was pollinated first and would be most impacted by a derecho. Later hybrids tolerated this better,” Brown said.

“When you lay down for the night, you will see that the corn lies completely flat. Then it grows like a gooseneck, but the corn plant stands up again. It usually takes him three to four days to get back up and 10 days to two weeks to fully recover,” Brown said.

To find housing, Brown advised looking at the western edges of the affected fields. Some may stay low, but most will rise again because the corn is still growing.

“If lodging occurs during vegetative growth, it may have some effect on yield, but not a huge one. Once we got the rains the drought map started to look better and crops recovered well. Overall the crop looks decent, but the plant will tell the true story,” Brown said.

Marr is optimistic. During the first full week of September, he and his team were busy starting harvest, filling four semi-trailers with corn harvested from his fields in Morgan County on the Sangamon County border.

“We want to start early to test our machines to make sure we are ready to go. We checked the combines in July to get them ready. The most important thing about harvesting is to prepare,” Marr said.

“Our yield will be decent, but not the best. We hope to get at least 200 bushels per acre. Based on some of our yield checks, we’re looking at 210 to 240 bushels per acre. Beans are a big question. quite well, so they have good yield potential,” Marr said.

“The dry June has caused more damage than we thought, although some areas will be better because there has been some spotty rainfall. The 100-degree weather in August caused a lot of concern about how it affected yield potential,” Marr said. “Yields should be pretty good because the price of corn is going down.”

For the fields east of New Berlin, work will be slower because Marr will have to combine corn with goosenecks and the rows are not lined up.

“We’ll have to go slower to avoid losing some of the cobs. We have special attachments to control gooseneck corn. We hope this will only have a nominal impact on yields,” Marr said.

Marr is waiting for the export market to recover, but he would also like to see the Next Generation Fuel Act win congressional approval.

This law will gradually increase the octane rating of gasoline through increased use of ethanol. By increasing the amount of ethanol that can be used to fuel the fuel, prices at the pump will decrease while increasing the demand for corn. The action was sponsored by representatives of the United States. Darin LaHood, Republican from Peoria, and Nikki Budzinski, Democrat from Springfield.

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