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Will corn production forecast get smaller?

Published August 17, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – The USDA’s 2015 corn production forecast and the projections of 2015-16 marketing-year consumption released last week point to another year of ample corn supplies.  The midpoint of the marketing-year average price projection is $3.65. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, from the corn producers’ viewpoint, the question is whether these projections will change enough to result in higher prices than currently forecast and currently reflected in the futures market.

“Prospects for year-ending stocks to be smaller than the current projection of 1.713 billion bushels could come from a smaller production forecast or from a larger consumption forecast,” Good said.

Good provided the following analysis of supply prospects.

A smaller supply projection could result from some combination of a lower estimate of harvested acreage or a smaller yield forecast. The estimate of planted and harvested acreage should become more precise in October as the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has a chance to review acreage data reported to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) by producers enrolled in federal farm programs. Last year, for example, the forecast of harvested acreage declined by 742,000 acres from August to October.

For now, the FSA monthly reports of planted and prevented acreage will be monitored to form expectations about likely changes in NASS acreage estimates. The first of those reports was released today, with producers reporting 83.147 million acres planted to corn compared to the current NASS estimate of 88.897 million. The FSA acreage figure will grow as acreage reporting and processing is completed, but the final figure will be less than the final NASS estimate because not all producers are required to report acreage to the FSA. Today’s report indicated that 2.3 million prevented corn acres have been certified so far in 2015. That compares to 1.54 million acres reported last year in August and the final 2014 report of 1.606 million acres. Prevented acres of all crops were reported at 6.449 million, compared to 4.231 million reported in August 2014 and the final 2014 report of 4.371 million acres.

Prevented acres of corn in today’s report totaled 506,039 in Missouri, 233,394 in Mississippi, 193,976 in Colorado, 191,086 in Arkansas, and 170,528 in Texas. In contrast, prevented corn acres in eastern Corn Belt states that received record or near record rainfall in June were surprisingly small. Prevented acres were reported at 87,035 in Illinois, 33,643 in Indiana, and 26,423 in Ohio. Similarly, prevented acres were relatively small in Kansas, reported at only 50,593 acres. Prevented corn acres exceeded those totals in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The magnitude of prevented plantings reported so far this year does not point to a substantial decline in the NASS estimate of planted acreage of corn. It is possible, however, that the NASS forecast of corn acreage harvested for grain will decline. The current forecast of the difference between planted acreage and acreage harvested for grain of 7.8 million acres is only 300,000 acres larger than the 1996 to 2014 average. It is difficult to assess how harvested acreage in areas of severe flooding have been affected and how those acres will be reflected in forecasts of acreage and forecasts of yield.

The NASS August forecast of the 2015 United States average corn yield of 168.8 bushels is about four bushels above the average trade guess reflected in news service surveys. History suggests that the forecast will likely change in subsequent Crop Production reports by enough to alter the expectations of year-ending stocks. In the 40 years from 1975 through 2014, the yield forecast changed by less than two bushels through the August to November forecast cycle in only five years. Because the August forecast was higher than expected this year, many have argued that subsequent forecasts will be lower. Looking specifically at the change in the yield forecast from August to September, the forecast has declined in 19 of the previous 40 years. The decline exceeded one bushel in 14 of those years and exceeded two bushels in nine years.

So what to expect in September?

The NASS August corn yield forecast (and subsequent forecasts) is based on a combination of producer surveys and field observations as was described in last week’s Weekly Outlook. The forecast also assumes normal weather conditions for the remainder of the growing season. Over the past two weeks, average temperatures in major corn-producing areas have not been stressful, but precipitation has been less than normal over a relatively large area.

Temperatures are expected to remain moderate through the remainder of August, and widespread rainfall is expected this week. Generally speaking, then, August weather conditions are not expected to deviate from normal by enough to change yield expectations. The corn market will also form yield expectations, in part from the USDA’s weekly report of crop conditions. That report showed 70 percent of the crop in good or excellent condition as of Aug. 9, well above the average for the week of 61 percent in the previous 29 years. That percentage is not expected to increase as the crop matures, but declines might support expectations of a lower yield forecast in September.

At this juncture, a case for a substantially lower USDA corn production forecast next month is difficult to make. That picture could change a bit based on actual weather conditions and crop condition ratings over the next three weeks.

Good will provide an examination of the consumption side in next week’s Weekly Outlook.

Recycled leaves

Published August 13, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – For the typical home gardener, fallen leaves are one of the most readily available forms of organic matter and serve as a wonderful soil conditioner, said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Nancy Kreith.

“After raking leaves this fall, think about recycling them on your property rather than bagging them for curbside pickup,” Kreith said.

Increasing organic matter (OM) in the soil will increase the amount of microbial activity that includes beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that aid in plant growth, Kreith explained. “OM coats finer clay particles in the soil, providing more air space, and binds sandy soils allowing for better water retention. Ideal garden soils should test at 5 percent OM,” she said.

A standard soil test will provide the percentage of OM in the soil. Contact a local U of I Extension office for information on soil testing kits and labs.

Brown leaves can be used as a carbon-rich material to add to a compost pile or they can be shredded and used as mulch. Kreith suggests running the lawn mower over raked leaves to cut them into smaller pieces or using a leaf shredder or leaf mulcher as an alternative. “This initial breakdown allows for improved air circulation and more surface area for quicker decomposition,” she said.

Kreith added that diseased leaves should be separated from the leaves that will be recycled or composted. 

The rate of decomposition for leaves will depend on the leaf size, tree species, and moisture level. Brown leaves break down faster if they are shredded and moistened. If unshredded leaves are applied as mulch, they tend to mat together and suffocate the soil and/or vegetation,” Kreith said. “However, having matted leaves in a vegetable or annual garden bed in the fall will help smother winter annual weeds, and during the next spring, the leaves can be incorporated or tilled into the soil,” she added.

Another easy way to recycle leaves is by storing them in garbage bags with small holes throughout the bag surface, which allows the leaves to break down naturally. “Wetting the leaves and having holes in direct contact with the earth (where more microbes are present) will speed up the decomposition process,” Kreith said. “The end result is referred to as leaf mold (partially decomposed leaves). Leaf mold can then be used as mulch or saved as a carbon source for adding to your compost pile in the summer when there are less readily available ‘brown’ materials.” 

Brown or dry materials are typically high in carbon and will help to balance the “green” or wet nitrogen-rich materials that are added to a compost pile, she added.  

“By recycling leaves on your property, not only will you be improving your garden soil, you will also be making an environmentally conscious choice to keep your yard waste onsite rather than having it hauled off as waste,” Kreith said.

To learn more about the basics of composting, visit

News Source:

Nancy Kreith, 708-679-6889

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Illinois Pumpkin Field Day 2015

Published August 13, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – Illinois Pumpkin Field Day 2015 will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the University of Illinois Vegetable Crops Research Farm in Champaign, Ill.

Extension specialists and researchers will present information from the research plots.

Presentations will include information on topics such as:

  • Varieties         
  • Herbicides and weed control
  • Production systems   
  • Insect pests
  • Post-harvest issues    
  • Diseases
  • Marketing                               
  • Spray equipment

Participants may also observe research plots of tomato, basil, and other crops.     

“Illinois is the leading state in pumpkin production. More than 90 percent of processing pumpkins produced in the United States are grown and processed in Illinois,” said Mohammad  Babadoost, a U of I plant pathologist and Extension specialist.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration is free and lunch will be provided.

Registration is required by Aug. 31 in order to prepare for lunch and other meeting requirements. To register, email Babadoost at

Directions to the U of I Vegetable Crops Research Farm:

Interstate I-74 from the west: Take Prospect Ave. exit (Exit 181) south to Windsor Rd.; turn left on Windsor Rd.; turn right on First St.

Interstate I-74 from the east: Take Lincoln Ave. exit (Exit 183) south to Windsor Rd.; turn right on Windsor Rd.; turn right on First St.

Interstate I-57 from the north: Take Curtis Rd. Exit (Exit 230); turn left (east) on Curtis Rd.; turn left to First St.

Interstate I-57 from the south: Take Curtis Rd. Exit (Exit 230); turn right (east) on Curtis Rd.; turn left on First St.

Interstate I-72: Turn right (south) on Mattis Ave. to Windsor Rd.; turn left on Windsor Rd.: turn right on First St.

For additional information or to become a sponsor of pumpkin day, contact Babadoost at 217-333-1523 or

Time to plant garlic

Published August 12, 2015

URBANA, IL - With the change of seasons, there are many different activities that take place in the garden during this time of year, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“In addition to planting spring-flowering bulbs, it’s also time to plant garlic,” said Ken Johnson. “Because garlic requires a cold period to properly produce, garlic cloves should be planted six to eight weeks before the ground is expected to freeze. This will give the cloves time to produce roots and to begin growing shoots before the ground freezes.

“Growth will resume come spring,” he added.

Garlic can be planted in the spring; however, if this is done, the cloves should be stored in a refrigerator for at least eight weeks prior to planting, Johnson explained. “This will ensure they have been properly chilled. While you can get good yields from spring-planted garlic, they tend to not yield as reliably as fall-planted garlic.”

There are two main types of garlic: softneck and hardneck. Hardneck garlic produces a hard stalk called a scape, which is where the name hardneck comes from.  “It is easy to peel but it does not store well. On the other hand, softneck garlic stores well, which is why we typically find it in grocery stores, but it does not peel as easily. Softneck garlic also rarely produces a flower stalk, thus the softneck name,” he said.

Garlic should be planted in well-drained soil in full sun. Garlic does best in soils with an abundance of organic matter. Make sure to amend soils with compost or well-rotted organic matter. In addition to adding organic matter, apply 2 to 3 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet before planting, Johnson advised.

“It is best to get your garlic from garden centers or catalogs. Garlic sold in grocery stores is usually treated to prevent it from sprouting, so it’s not a good choice for planting,” Johnson said.  

According to Johnson, hardneck varieties that do well in Illinois include Spanish Roja, Carpathian, Georgian Crystal, Music, Metechi, and Persian Star. Softneck varieties Inchelium Red and Idaho Silverskin also do well in Illinois, he said.

“Once you have your garlic bulbs, they should be broken apart into individual cloves.  Don’t divide your bulbs until right before planting. Choose the largest cloves for planting, making sure to discard cloves that are diseased, small, soft, or otherwise damaged to get the best yields,” Johnson explained.

“Once the soil has been prepared and you have selected your cloves, plant them 1 to 2 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches apart with 15 to 18 inches between rows. Make sure to plant the cloves with the pointed side facing up,” he said.

Garlic is susceptible to the same pests and diseases that onions are, such as thrips, onion maggots and bulb rots. “Garlic is a poor competitor,” Johnson noted. “Therefore, weed control is critical to a successful garlic harvest.  A 4- to 6-inch layer of weed-free straw or other organic mulch can be added to help control weeds. It will also help moderate soil temperatures.”

If growing a hardneck variety, the scape should be removed just after it uncoils. If the flower stalk is not removed, yield can be reduced by 25 percent or more, Johnson said.

“Garlic should be harvested when half of the leaves have turned yellow.  Bulbs should be cured in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area for several weeks. Once your garlic is cured, the stems and roots can be cut off and bulbs cleaned by removing the outermost skin, making sure not to expose the cloves. Finally they should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, and you can enjoy the fruit of your labor,” he said. 

News Source:

Ken Johnson, 217-243-7424

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Tips for fall gardening

Published August 11, 2015

URBANA, Ill. - Taking a walk in cool, crisp weather, attending football games, picking apples, and choosing the perfect pumpkin are some quintessential activities for the fall, said University of Illinois horticulture educator Ron Wolford.  

“Planting bulbs is probably the number one garden activity that takes place in the fall, but there are a number of other gardening and fall-related activities to do,” Wolford said.

Some tips for fall gardening tasks include:

Get ready for frost

“On average, the first fall frost occurs around October 15, but we have had frost in September,” Wolford noted. “First frosts usually occur when cool weather arrives with clear nights and light winds.”

Open grassy areas are most likely to have frost versus areas under trees that are protected because the trees keep heat from escaping. “Plantings close to the foundation of your home often survive a first frost because of the heat given off from house,” he said. “To protect plants cover them with blankets, newspaper, straw, sheets, tarps, boxes, or plastic sheeting. Apply the covers later in the afternoon and remove them in the morning.”

Floating row covers can also protect plants. This spun polyester material will raise the temperature 2 to 5 degrees around the plants, Wolford said.

Plant a green manure crop

Green manure crops include clover, annual ryegrass, winter wheat, winter rye, and buckwheat. Green manure crops turned into the soil in the spring will improve soil structure and add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. “Sow the seed thickly. Keep moist until germination occurs. Cut back plant’s flowers to prevent self-seeding,” Wolford said.

Transplant perennials

“Transplant and divide perennials now,” Wolford recommended. “If you are planning to transplant established plants, cut them back by half and move them to a prepared spot. Keep them watered until the plant is established.”

Divide perennials when flowers get smaller, when the center of the plant dies out, or when the plant gets too big. “All transplanting and dividing should be completed by October 1 to allow good root development before cold weather sets in,” he noted.

Repair lawn

Autumn is the best time to repair lawns, Wolford said. Seeding bare spots in the lawn from late August to mid-September will allow the new growth to have enough time to germinate, grow and harden off before cold temperatures arrive. “There is less competition from weeds in the fall because most of the annual weeds are dying out. Plus we are usually blessed with cool temperatures in the fall, which is great for growing grass. Ideally dig the soil to at least 6 to 8 inches deep, spread grass seed over the area, and tamp down. Keep the soil moist until germination. Cover with weed-free straw to conserve moisture.

“If you are laying down sod, water the new sod several times a day for one to two weeks until it begins to knit or take hold. Be sure that water goes down through the thick sod and moistens the soil underneath for good root development. Do not let seed or sod dry out,” he cautioned.

Plant trees and shrubs

Plant trees and shrubs from September through early October. “Planting during this time period will allow the plants to become established before winter sets in. Water plants every 7 to 10 days during dry weather until the ground freezes,” he said.

Garden clean-up

Remove dead plants from the vegetable garden after frost. If plants were not diseased, they can be turned into the soil or placed in a compost pile. “Leaving dead plants in the garden will provide a home for overwintering insects. Spread a 2- to 3 inch-layer of organic matter over the garden and dig in. The garden will be ready for planting in the spring,” he said.

For more gardening information, visit the U of I Extension's Hort Corner.

News Source:

Ron Wolford, 773-233-2900

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension