Harvest progress minimizes impact of latest windstorm on farms

Livingston County farmers near harvest’s end with 6.7 suitable fieldwork days during the week that ended Nov. 8. Average temperatures hit 54.7 degrees, 9.1 degrees above average, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

Many farmers have another reason to be thankful for an early harvest.

Three months to the day of the devastating Aug. 10 derecho, a cold front pushed through the state Tuesday (Nov. 10) that produced a long line of fast-moving storms with wind gusts from 40 to 70 mph across much of the state.

And while there were widespread reports of downed power lines and trees, power outages, and roof and other building damage, initial reports didn’t indicate a lot of damage to crops as most were already in the bin.

“We had very strong winds, but I haven’t seen a lot of damage,” said Ryan Frieders, FarmWeek CropWatcher from Waterman (DeKalb County).

“If it was earlier in the year, (the windstorm) would’ve been a very dramatic event,” he noted. “Normally, there’d be a lot of corn still in the field this time of year. But harvest went so fast, most people are done or wrapping up.”

Illinois farmers harvested 95% of corn (6 points ahead of the average pace) and 96% of soybeans (3 points ahead of average) as of Nov. 8, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office.

Grant Iske, a Carroll County Farm Bureau member who farms with his father, William, and brothers near Lanark, reported the windstorm knocked out power on their farm for more than 12 hours. They had just finished power washing their harvest equipment the day before the storm.

“We had 60 to 70 mph winds,” Iske said. “It’s good we had all the corn picked off the ground, or it would’ve been flat.”

The Aug. 10 derecho, by comparison, flattened or stripped millions of acres of corn and soybeans across central and east central Iowa and into northern Illinois. Insurance claims in Iowa from that event recently surpassed $1.6 billion.

The cold front that triggered the outbreak of severe thunderstorms this time around also ended a stretch of unseasonably warm, almost summer-like weather, with a week of high temperatures in the 70s.

In fact, 27 Illinois weather stations with at least 30 years of observations experienced the warmest week on record for the month of November, based on a seven-day average temperature, the Illinois State Water Survey reported.

“It was an incredible start to the month,” Mark Henderson, chief meteorologist with WIFR in Rockford told the RFD Radio Network. “I think La Nina was very much a player in this.”

And after a recent shot of cold air, Illinois could finish the month on another mild streak.

“Looking at the longer-range outlook the next one to two weeks, we could see a re-emergence of mild air. Probably not in the 70s, but possibly the 60s,” Henderson said. “There aren’t any significant indications of real cold air or major wintry weather the next couple weeks.”

Farmers will keep an eye on the sky, though, in hopes of some precipitation. Subsoil moisture ranked 42% short to very short, 57% adequate and just 1% surplus as of Nov. 8.

“It’s very dry,” Frieders said. “We were doing some tile repair and a main, 12-inch tile had no water in it and the creeks are down. Hopefully, we’ll get a winter recharge.”

Farmers also recently wrapped up most wheat planting in the state, with 97% of the crop in the ground and 90% emerged as of Nov. 8, both ahead of the average pace. Condition of the wheat crop ranked 70% good to excellent (compared to just 43% at this time last year), 19% fair and 11% poor to very poor.