Illinois farmers quickly erased the slow start to winter wheat harvest the last full week of June.
Growers cut nearly two-fifths (37%) of the crop in just one week, from June 21-28. Harvest moved to 63% complete statewide as of June 28, exactly on the five-year average pace, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office.
“I had about four days of work, and we had a four-day window June 23-26,” said John Ernst, a wheat grower from Alhambra (Madison County). “The majority of farmers in my area got the wheat out by Friday (June 26) before the rain.”
Ernst’s farm received about 1.4 inches of rain the next day, June 27, which worked out very well for the double-crop soybeans.
“We got all our beans planted right behind the combine. It was kind of a struggle to get them poked into the ‘concrete,’” he said of the hard soil at the time. “But I’m glad we got them in, now that we got a good rain.”
Wheat yields and quality both turned out pretty well on Ernst’s farm despite late spring frost and some heavy rains.
Findings of head scab were quite common in wheat fields in the weeks leading up to harvest, but the portion of crop injury wasn’t severe at many locations.
“Vomitoxin (the mycotoxin in wheat caused by head scab) has been spotty. I’ve heard of a few loads that got rejected,” Ernst said. “But we didn’t have any docks, which was great considering the unfortunate weather we had during flowering.”
Many farmers countered the wet conditions with fungicide applications to help keep scab in check.
Wheat yields on Ernst’s farm averaged in the mid-80s, above USDA’s statewide yield estimate of 73 bushels per acre.
“Our yields turned out pretty good,” he said. “We struggled after planting. We got some heavy rains and had some bare spots. But the good spots were tremendous and the bare spots not as much, so overall, we got a few more bushels than we anticipated.”
The recent uptick in wheat harvest activity across the state far exceeds last year, when just 38% of the crop was cut by the end of June.