2022 has arrived, and while it’s still very early in the year, we all know a new season will bring challenges to your customers. Knowing this, we’re reviewing some of the challenges corn and soybean farmers faced in 2021 to help get ready for what the new year may have in store.
Mike Koenigs is a market development specialist for Corteva Agriscience working across the state of Illinois. Beau Morris is a retail product agronomist for Brevant® seeds whose territory covers southeastern Illinois. Both Koenigs and Morris say spring 2021 started with a bang in their state.
“If I had to summarize 2021, I would say we had a fantastic start to the season in Illinois. April was warm and relatively dry,” Koenigs says. “We got a lot of fieldwork done. We got a lot of the crop planted. We were off to greatness.”
Morris adds: “Planting went in early. Some of our beans even got snowed on. We left stands we thought were going to be questionable that ended up being unbelievable. So, that was great.”
However, Mother Nature threw a few wrenches into the works for farmers.
“Things started to change as we got into May, June and July. Across the state, we had different microclimates. So, we had parts of the state that were quite dry. We had parts of the state that were very wet,” Koenigs says.
“Things started to change as we got into May, June and July. Across the state, we had different microclimates. So, we had parts of the state that were quite dry. We had parts of the state that were very wet.”
Both Koenigs and Morris say corn and soybean yield across Illinois was a mixed bag, although fairly strong overall. They say in some cases areas that expected low yield, strangely, got high yield and vice versa.
Morris says in southeastern Illinois, yield was lower thanks to too much rainfall. That caused a lot of nitrogen leaching in that part of the state.
“Too much water was the yield-limiting factor in corn for much of my territory. That’s why the areas to the south that have, maybe, worse dirt actually did better. I’m talking about that harder, more clay-based dirt. That took on the water easier,” he explains. “And then in the northern part of my territory, you had ponds in the field. We still had good corn, but not what we thought it could be.”
And it wasn’t just a lack of nitrogen that hit corn yield. A relatively new disease took a lot of Illinois farmers by surprise in 2021.
“The buzz right now is all about tar spot in corn. Before this year, I don’t think we had ever seen it in my territory,” Morris says. “Tar spot’s moved in, and now everybody’s trying to figure out what to do and what we can do to control it.”
“The buzz right now is all about tar spot in corn. Before this year, I don’t think we had ever seen it in my territory. Tar spot’s moved in, and now everybody’s trying to figure out what to do and what we can do to control it.”
Morris and Koenigs say tar spot has been prevalent in northern Illinois and parts of Indiana for about five years. However, the disease made it’s way to southern Illinois last year and the conditions were just right for it to flourish. Tar spot thrives in cloudy, damp and cool conditions.
“Even for people that maybe did spray a fungicide around tassel time, which is the typical window you want to apply, tar spot just kept coming because of the conditions,” Koenigs says. “So, looking back, if we would have had a crystal ball, we would have recommended making two fungicide applications.”