The trend began in 2007, when corn acreage
peaked at 231,500 harvested acres, producing the unbroken record
of 197 bushels per acre. The following two years resulted in
slightly lower yields of 188 bushels per acre, a number that
fell drastically to 155.7 in 2010. The Feb. 23 release of the
2011 USDA county estimates revealed that while corn production
rose significantly to 173.4 bushels per acre, Logan County still
has ground to cover in catching up to 2007 numbers.
But will this trend of pushing for corn
continue through this year?
According to Don Ludwig, general manager of
Elkhart Grain and a 21-year employee of the company, the trend
may actually be dying down. "The number of acres [of corn]
planted seems to have tapered off a little," he said.
Ludwig also believes that while there may
be a change in the amount of corn harvested at the end of the
growing season, it will probably be fairly minimal, with a 10
percent increase or decrease being "a real stretch."
The production numbers of corn will also be
affected by Logan County's secondary crop: soybeans. According
to the data provided by the USDA, Logan County produced 54.6
bushels per acre in soybeans, a decrease from 2010, when the
average was 57.6.
As for the total acreage planted in 2011,
soybeans represented around 36 percent of Logan County's total,
while corn was just over 64 percent. In this regard, potential
corn crops outnumber potential bean crops nearly 2-to-1.
Despite these figures, a high bean crop
could shift production in the coming seasons. Should soybean
harvests result in higher numbers, as was seen in 2010, farmers
may begin to plant more acres of beans. Prior to corn peaking in
2007, soybeans made up a much larger percentage of planted
crops, yet poor returns in 2006 likely led to the push for more
So the question remains: Will there still
be a push for corn production?
The answer is not so simple. The financial
gains are greater after the planting and harvesting of corn if
the farm is going to be used for only one year.
"There is simply more money per acre in
planting corn for a year," said Ludwig.
The farming strategy of continuous corn
sounds counterproductive when compared with the typical methods
of crop rotation. According to the 2012 crop budget report
provided by the University of Illinois Agricultural Department,
greater gross revenue will result from the planting of soybeans
after two years of planting corn. Furthermore, the harvesting of
corn that has been planted after soybeans will also result in
greater profit from said corn.
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Such a gain is due to a
slight decrease in the quantity of necessary fertilizers and
pesticides used in such a practice, as beans replace some of the
nutrients that corn takes from the soil. Additionally, corn that
is planted after a pervious corn crop may be less resistant to
disease and more susceptible to cob rot, as opposed to corn
planted after soybeans, which may be more resistant.
Continuous corn planting also carries the risk of yield drag, as
the harvest numbers decrease due to diminishing returns.
According to Ludwig, a primary reason for a push for corn is the
high cash rent in Logan County. "Logan County has one of the
highest cash rent values in Illinois," he said.
The 2011 USDA report reveals that Logan County has the
third-highest cash rent, at $246 per acre. This price follows
Sangamon County at $252 per acre and Macon County at $260 per
"When a farmer has such high cash rent, they can't always be
sure they will still have a farm a few years down the road,"
said Ludwig. "Corn is more profitable for a one-year commitment
to farm a farm. If it is known that a farm will be farmed for at
least three years, the U of I suggestion was two years of corn
followed by one year of soybeans."
As is the case with any business model, it seems to be the desire
for greater profits that is the reason for the reduction of
continuous corn planting in the fields. While corn is a more
profitable crop, it makes greater financial sense in the long
term to plant beans after two years of corn. Because of the
biological and financial risks that arise from the practice of
corn-on-corn planting, the push for corn in Logan County is
beginning to diminish.
Elkhart Grain has always been a major player in Logan County
agriculture. The company has offices in Elkhart, Mount Pulaski
and Lake Fork, Ill.
This is one of the
articles you will find in our special Spring 2012 Farm Outlook
The magazine is online now.
Click here to view all the articles, which include:
Introduction by John Fulton
Weather: The biggest variable
2011 crop yields
Protecting your income with insurance
The value of land conservation
Property taxes on farmland
Land value in Logan County
Increasing yield with aerial application
The importance of Ag Scholarships