TOLONO (AP) — As Illinois farmers work their way through the harvest of winter wheat, many are finding the harsh winter was tough on their crops, with some in parts of central Illinois saying their production is down.
John Little of Tolono, south of Champaign, tells The News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1sxSQzZ ) he expects his 40 acres of winter wheat to yield a crop that might be near average. He's guessing about 75 bushels an acre. In past years, that figure was as high as 90.
Little blamed winter cold and the wet spring that followed.
Fred Kolb, a crop sciences professor at the University of Illinois, says wheat crops were a little slow coming out of winter.
Snow often helps crop growth because it acts as an insulator, but low temperatures, ice encasement or standing water can be detrimental.
"Yield potential looked great, but in the northern part of the state, we lost some fields due to water damage or winter kill or a combination of those," Kolb said. "Some fields were abandoned."
Some farmers had problems with scab, a blight that affects wheat, due to humid and rainy weather during the flowering stage around mid-May.
Although winter wheat is a common crop in southern Illinois, it's more of a specialty crop in the eastern part of the state.
Little says most of the crops in East Central Illinois yield soft wheat used for cake mixes, crackers and cookies. Other crops produce hard wheat and spring wheat, which are used to make bread flour and pasta, respectively.
Wheat is a relatively minor crop in much of the state. According to a recent agricultural census, for every 100 acres of corn grown in Champaign County, only 1 acre of wheat is grown.
Little, who grows wheat for seed, said he usually plants about a tenth of his 400 acres with wheat.
"It doesn't pay as well as corn or soybeans, but I'm a little old-fashioned," he said. "I still enjoy seeing a wheat field."
Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com