WAPELLA — Scotty May has been farming in the Wapella area for more than three decades, but seems to find something new all of the time. Each year, he plants a patch of sweetcorn before hitting the fields to plant corn and soybeans.
“As I was walking past, I noticed the tassels starting to pop (Tuesday),” he said. “It took only 48 days from planting. I’ve never seen corn this fast in my life. I’ve been farming for 30-plus years and I don’t believe I have ever witnessed corn grow as rapid as this year, especially after such a cold, dry start. It looks like we will have corn on the cob in early July.”
Farmers throughout Central Illinois reported similar stories this week after widespread showers and thunderstorms dumped several inches of rain on the region in the past week.
“It’s amazing as to how we can go from a record-cold April to the second warmest May and see how quickly Illinois corn can grow,” said May. “We have amassed close to record heat units in May and were blessed with recent rains to send this crop into rapid growth.”
Bruce Thomas, another Wapella area farmer growing corn and soybeans, took a picture of his 5-year-old daughter, Briley, on June 6, standing in front of a field of corn that matched her height. A week later, another picture in the same spot showed the corn had grown to twice her size.
“We had over a foot of growth on corn in a week and we are about two weeks ahead this year,” Thomas said. “Everything is growing great. The beans are blooming early, too.”
Most of McLean and DeWitt counties received between 2 and 4 inches of rain between Saturday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Lincoln. Areas directly to the south and north received more.
No doubt, the rain was needed, farmers said.
According to the Illinois State Climatologist Office, portions of DeWitt and McLean counties (about 39 percent) were beginning to fall into an abnormally dry state. Following the rains, only 13 percent of the area is considered to be abnormally dry.
“We still have a long way to go,” May said, “but so far, it’s looking very good.”
According to the USDA, 95 percent of the planted corn has emerged and 55 percent of the corn crop in Illinois is rated in good condition. Another 27 percent is rated excellent, while 15 percent is rated fair. Only 3 percent of the crop is rated poor or very poor.
The USDA statistics also reveal that 90 percent of the planted soybeans were above ground. Of that, 62 percent is rated as being in good condition, and 21 percent was rated as excellent. Fifteen percent of the crop was rated as being in fair condition and 3 percent is poor or very poor.
While the rain certainly helped the crops, this week’s predicted heat wave could do damage, experts say.
Officials from the NWS say temperatures are expected to rise to 90 degrees on Friday and 95 degrees on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. After a 40 percent chance of rain early Friday, there is no rain in the forecast until Tuesday.