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Marlene Gantt

Marlene Gantt

The corn crop yields in northern Illinois this year will be variable due to the constant change in the weather.

“Some areas have had timely rains, others had droughty periods in parts of western and northern Illinois,” Melissa Bell, commercial agronomist, said on the “Illinois Farmer Today” website.

In October 1945, moisture in the corn was running high, according to the Daily Dispatch.

Moister content at the Hillsdale Elevator Co. listed ranges from 23 percent to 35 percent. “Unless farmers have narrow well-ventilated cribs they are reluctant to pile up corn that is not sufficiently dry.” Damp weather would cause cribbed corn to mold and rot.

When corn was handpicked it could be cribbed at a higher percent moisture test because only about 200 bushels would be picked in a day. In 1945 mechanical huskers were picking 500 to 800 bushels daily. For cribbing the corn had to be 20 percent moisture or less.

“Not all farmers have mechanical pickers and in Coe Township for example, many of the pickers in use are only one-row pull type machines that are about ready to be discarded,” said the Dispatch, “so the farmers operating them go forth daily with the hope that the implement will last the season out. It is difficult to find repair parts and impossible to buy new pickers. Implement dealers have long waiting lists for available machines.”

Corn was dried by artificial methods at the Claire V. Golden hybrid seed house in the north end of Coe Township. “Many women from Port Byron, Cordova and Coe have been busy helping with the work of sorting the incoming crop,” said the Dispatch.

Corn that had been downed by hail in a storm that occurred south of Henry County was difficult to pick, according to the newspaper.

A large corn crop was expected for Illinois in 1945 despite the rainy cool weather that caused earlier estimates of a lighter yield.

“Quality is expected to vary because of lack of drying weather to hasten maturing of late fields,” said the Dispatch. “Farmers are agreed that the best place to dry high moisture corn is in the field.”

“When corn picking is done, many Illinois farmers probably will indulge in the common practice of turning horses into the stalk fields,” said the newspaper. This is usually done without undesirable results. However, following damp, rainy weather that favors development of moldy corn, horses could suffer from corn-stalk disease.

The goal of many farmers then was to finish harvesting by Thanksgiving.

Back to this year, corn crops in northern Illinois faced issues other than the weather.

Pollination issues were caused by lack of rain, according to agronomist Bell. Intense heat compounded problems when kernels were developing. There was also a notable return of physoderma, a disease that has been around in corn since the 1970s and 1980s.

It isn’t as much of a problem when it is found only on leaves, but when it develops into node rot, yield loss is likely. Nutrients the corn crop needed were washed away in Pontiac in June according to Jason Weber Precision Planting agronomist.

Black tar spot has “blown up” in northern Illinois, parts of Wisconsin and Michigan this year,” said Nathan Kleczewski, University of Illinois crop sciences assistant professor.

Shea Bieri, Northwest Illinois CropWatch Journal, wrote on Oct. 1: “On again off-again has been the pattern for this week. Everyone is hard at it in the fields now but scattered showers this week had everyone stopped at different times. Corn is yielding well, with some of our later hybrids producing better with yields in the 270s bu/acre this week.”

On Oct. 8, Kossuth County, Iowa, an anonymous farmer wrote on AgWeb Crop Comments Aqweb.com:

“Pretty late planting in wet soils followed by too much rain and lots of drowned out spots. Harvest reveals hilltop yielding about 210 and low spots 105 spots. Top it off with some significant winds and harvest has been a major challenge. Trying to harvest landlord corn and enough to keep the cattle fed another year.”

Marlene Gantt is a former Rock Island teacher who lives in Port Byron.

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