Sustainability

2020 Ground Work: Illinois Rain Delays

We were having a really great spring. The corn was planted and soybean planting had started. And then it started raining. And raining. And raining some more.

In the past month, I’ve lost track of how much rain we’ve gotten, but it’s more than 13 cm, or 5 inches. Some of that came in nice, light, soaking rains of about 1 cm or .5 inches, but one day in mid-May brought heavy storms that quickly dropped 7.5 cm, or 3 inches, of pounding rain.

The fields are saturated, so we have not been able to plant any more fields since about April 23.

On top of that, the weather has been cool and cloudy. Most of the days in May our high temperature has been under 21°C, or 70°F. We are not accumulating the Growing Degree Days, or units of heat, our crops need to grow. In response, the crops we do have planted have been slow to emerge.

I am still optimistic that we will get a good crop planted. We just need 5 good days to finish planting soybeans, and then we can assess what areas of our fields need to be replanted. We got better yields than expected from our June plantings last year, and we aren’t that late yet.

Thankfully, despite standing water in our fields, our soils don’t move very much, so we aren’t losing any topsoil. Based on experience, we’ve seen a bit of dirt move to low spots within a field, but it doesn’t leave the field.

The heavy rains also have reinforced the value of some of the work we did this spring. We shaped berms to slow water flow and direct heavy flows of water to grass ditches and waterways, and those structures have held up well so far this year. Though they will need maintenance each year or two, we can see that they prevent soil from eroding and direct water where we want it to drain.

During the rain delay, we’ve found a variety of other projects to keep us busy. We went over the tillage equipment used earlier this spring to make repairs as needed. We’ve delivered few semi-loads of corn and soybeans to ADM each week despite low prices to be sure we can store the crop we will raise this year. I’ve worked on accounting and record keeping for the farm and renovation projects in my home. My wife and I introduced our daughter to the neighbor’s cattle. I even picked up rocks in areas of the field and sold them as landscaping rocks on Facebook!

I’ve also heard from farmers in other parts of Illinois that have not been hit with as much rain as we’ve gotten, so their crops are looking great. Once we have a window to plant, we will get the crop in, so although we have been slowed down, we still expect a successful 2020 crop.

Elliott Uphoff
Elliott Uphoff

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Illinois

Elliott Uphoff farms with his dad and retired grandpa. Elliott is the fifth generation of his family to farm near Shelbyville, Illinois, raising soybean and corn. He earned his degree in plant and soil science with a minor in agribusiness from Southern Illinois University in 2012, and he joined the farm full-time in 2013. Elliott also has a trucking business and serves as an Illinois Soybean Association director. He and his wife Hailey welcomed their first daughter, Madeline, in November 2019.