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Will Local Farmers Weather the Storms?

Crops needed rain. However, today's flooding may be doing more damage than good.

In ag news this week, the stock markets have remained surprisingly calm. The real turbulence, however, has been in the weather. The heavy storms that started Wednesday have set some farmers back weeks yet again.

Many local farmers have had to replant soybeans after the last downpour. They just got the seeds in the ground as recently as Monday and Tuesday. Now, with the  flash floods that started Wednesday night, some bean farmers are going to have to start over for possibly a third or fourth time.

Standing water causes the ground to crust over, preventing growth. Seeds that have not emerged are probably lost.

Other than for these minority of bean growers, overall corn has been making substantial progress. Illinois continues to be among the states leading the nation.

Local drivers, though, are still seeing a lot of farm equipment on the roads. What is happening now is called side dressing. This year, area growers are noticing a greater than average loss of nitrogen. The side dress replaces nitrogen by spraying it along the sides of the plants, or in most cases, from the top of the plant.

This process is common every year. However, what makes this year unusual, is that we are seeing poor mineralization from the prior bean crop. Mineralization is the natural release of nitrogen from the organic matter that comes from soybeans. 

As part of the legume family, soybeans are actually nitrogen-fixing. That is why farmers rotate crops, so that the beans replace nitrogen into the soil for the coming year's corn plants. However, this year, the nitrogen that should be present for corn from last year's beans isn't available.

Typical to farming practices, side dressing has a small window of opportunity to complete. The corn plants can't be too high or the wheels from the farm equipment will drive over the plants, harming more than helping. 

If the weather or other factors prevent side dressing, insufficient nitrogen will negatively impact yield. Ultimately, what is happening right here in this tri-county area and across Illinois farm fields is being watched carefully by the nation. If we are not able to maintain or increase our corn yield this year, consumers will certainly feel it in the grocery store receipts, especially in meat pricing.

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