DUQUOIN, Ill. (DTN) -- I had to go look. When reports that growers were mowing down corn in southern Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky came in on Friday, I had to see for myself. I knew the lack of rainfall coupled with triple-digit heat had hit us hard in central Illinois, but my travels over the past weekend have confirmed how much our deep soils protect us.
Traveling south to nearly the tip of Illinois and east to the Illinois/Indiana state line, I found those fields farmers had described to me as "pineapples." I might classify them more a yucca plants -- the knee-high to chest-high plants with their parched leaves were rolled so tight to be prickly. A few tasseled plants had small ears with no potential.
North of Centralia, Ill., I found fields that had ears that were small, but somewhat filled in. The shucks were dry, the ears had dropped on the shank, but surprisingly, there were more of these ears than I expected.
Near Broughton, Ill., north of Eldorado, I walked a field that was similarly dried down, but had very few ears. A few marestail and ragweed provided a touch of green.
This trip was a ramble and not a study. The only field that I found destroyed was chopped near DuQuoin, Ill. I figured it went for silage based on the fact the crop was removed and cut close to the ground. The plants that remained in the field were tasseled and had a few ears, but very few of those ears had any kernel set. The plants were pale green and rubber-like. The plant appeared to have had every drop of moisture sucked from it. I could feel the heat sapping my body as I stood among the remaining stand. The thermometer on my truck read 114 degrees Fahrenheit as I drove down the road.
Soybeans were a mixed bag. No question the soybeans I saw were struggling, but I would say they also appeared to be hanging tough. I didn't notice any leaf die back -- although stands in some fields were poor. Many of the wheat beans were barely showing above the stubble.
While I wouldn't call them garden spots, some of the bottoms near Vandalia, Ill., were standing tall and still mostly green with decent-size ears. The tips may not fill, but there will be a crop. Soybeans in the same area were small and far from shading the rows. Still, these fields are often those that get flooded in years when spring rains are plentiful.
It's easy to identify areas that have been blessed with a bit more rainfall. Near Assumption, Ill., the corn is eight feet tall and much of it pollinated before the temperature cranked beyond 95 degrees. Still, even it was showing stress in the lower leaves over the weekend.
A front came through as I drove back to central Illinois, and I watched the thermometer drop from 103 to 79 in the span of an hour. Reports that southern Indiana received rain showers and that some growers are considering destroying corn and replanting soybeans have been filtering in. Calls to seed companies indicate that growers have inquired, but no sales were confirmed.
Growers it seems are a lot like their crops -- the last thing they want to do is give up.
Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.firstname.lastname@example.org
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