University of Illinois agriculture research specialist Brian Henry harvests a field of soybeans near Dwight, Ill.
University of Illinois agriculture research specialist Brian Henry harvests a field of soybeans near Dwight, Ill.

URBANA, Ill. — Only a few fields remained to be harvested to wrap up the annual corn hybrid and soybean variety testing program conducted by the University of Illinois.

Once the final tallies are in, this important tool for growers will be published in Illinois AgriNews.

These crop performance tests have been conducted annually since 1934 to provide farmers, extension personnel, and private seed companies with agronomic information on hybrids and varieties of the major Illinois field crops.

The trials are professionally managed and conducted in a research-based manner to minimize variability and insure the integrity of the results.

This level of expertise and professionalism make performance reports issued by this program the premier source of objective third party information on current and soon-to-be released varieties.

The soybean testing results will be featured in the Nov. 14 issue of AgriNews. Results of the corn hybrid testing are slated for the Nov 21 issue.

Testing sites were located throughout the state with plots near the communities of Erie, Mt. Morris, DeKalb, Monmouth, Goodfield, Dwight, Perry, New Berlin, Urbana, St. Peter, Belleville, Elkville, Dixon Springs (corn only) and Harrisburg.

Agronomist Ralph Esgar, senior agriculture research specialist Darin Joos and agriculture research specialist Brian Henry conduct the testing program.

Esgar noted the many benefits the program provides for growers.

“With the regional nature of the locations and the way they’re situated around the state, it is just an excellent opportunity to evaluate soybean varieties and corn hybrids in different environments,” said Esgar.

“Basically that’s a good test for selecting a variety for next year because we all know we really can’t determine what next year’s environment locally is going to be. It could be ideal. It could be droughty, or any of the conditions in between.

“If we can find a variety that performs well in multiple environments such as in our regional sites, then that’s an excellent way to pick a good performing environment that you would see locally.”

About 620 varieties from 62 companies are included in this year’s program.

Varieties include those that have already been out in the market and others that will soon be released.

While all of the final tallies have yet to be accumulated, there have been some good corn and soybean yields in various parts of the state.

“In general, the yield has been a little bit better than last year, with western Illinois doing real well,” Esgar said of the soybean trials.

“New Berlin has excellent yields. Monmouth and Goodfield had maybe just a tad bit below New Berlin. Harrisburg was excellent. Elkville was much better than a year ago.

“Southern and western Illinois received some late August rains that I think really helped them out.

“Northern Illinois is good. It’s not quite as good at Mt. Morris and Erie as it was a year ago when they had excellent years in the 70s or better. They still attainted probably in the mid to high 50s.

“Just in general, there are pretty good yield levels seen across the state, with a few exceptional locations in central, west-central and southern Illinois.”

Yields in the upper 50s to low 60s have been found in various locations.

Many parts of the state were hit with heavy spring rains and flooding, but most of the soybeans were planted in a timely manner.

“We started on May 8 and had most of them in before Memorial Day. Urbana, Belleville and St. Peter were after Memorial Day,” Esgar said.

“For the most part, we faired well with all those plantings in early to mid-May. They got good establishment.

“Urbana had some pretty heavy rains right after planting. We planted on May 29 there, and I had a few stand issues in parts of the field.

“Belleville and St. Peter got planted in early June, and sometimes that late planting in that area doesn’t work out too well. The timing is such that the heat in July and August don’t really make it too conducive to get vegetative growth to make up for the late planting.

“I guess in that regard, while Belleville and St. Peter might not have been the highest yielding locations in the state, they definitely performed probably better than expected given the late planting.

“Southern Illinois had pretty ideal conditions in July and August to allow for our situation in variety testing for those two late planted soybean locations to be pretty productive and make up time that was lost for late planting.”

Corn harvest is about a month behind last year do to the slow dry down to harvest moisture, so some of the data has yet to be collected.

“A year ago we were completely done with corn harvest on Oct. 4, and as we stand here today (Oct. 23), we have harvested seven out of the 12 (testing sites),” said Esgar.

“It will probably into the next week or two before we are able to finish up. I guess we could be finishing about Nov. 4 this year with that in mind.

“That’s really the most notable issue that’s different from maybe the last five or six years, and most notable last year.

“Last year was probably as extremely early as we’ve seen for corn harvest and this year it’s about as most notably late, later than we’ve seen in quite some time.”

They haven’t encountered any major lodging issues during corn harvest.

“We’ve seen just varietal stand issues that always are accounted for in the notes that we take at harvest. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any extreme lodging issues that just dominate the whole location,” he said.

Corn yield averages were around 256 at New Berlin and 249 at Erie.

“Monmouth was extremely good. Urbana was good. Just in general, there is some excellent corn yields out there,” said Esgar.

“I think we’re going to find real good yield levels in everything that we got planted in a normal fashion, and we have two locations that were lost due to the heavy rains in early May at St. Peter and Belleville that were planted late.

“We’re waiting for those two to dry down. We haven’t been into those yet. They will be some of the last ones harvested in the next week or ten days, and also the northern Illinois sites at Mt. Morris and DeKalb.

“We’re just trying to wait for them to dry down to harvest moisture. It will be interesting to see how those late-planted ones fare.

“We even had stand issues at St. Peter after that replant, so we’re not definitely sure that we’re going to be able to utilize the St. Peter location. Hopefully Belleville will be a good test.”