Rain arrives to help crops in IL and OK

Market to Market | Clip
Jul 7, 2023 | 8 min

July 4th, 2023 was the hottest day on earth since the National Centers for Climate Prediction started gathering data in 1979. This broke a record set just one day earlier on July 3rd. 

High temps have been common in the South the last few weeks. Dry conditions continue tightening their hold on the grain belt.  

This growing season we are, again, profiling two producers in different parts of the country - tracking what’s happening on the ground and in their fields.

Oklahoma was in an epic drought when we last visited with Mike Schulte. 

The region of Illinois where Chad Bell lives was wet during the key part of the planting season. 

How things have changed are the stories told in the next installment of the MtoM Podcast and are featured in this week’s Cover Story. 



Chad Bell:  Up until this past Thursday. We had basically had next to no rain since about May 13, I believe. And corn and soybeans, corn especially, was struggling in the area. Curling up during the day and starting to get some of that gray ish look to it. And even on the days where highs rolling in the upper 70s or low 80s. Corn was really looking tough in this area. And but anytime it would rain, I'd kind of come out of it. And we had some really nice cool nights and so that that really helped a lot of the corn wasn't stressed overnight with prolonged warm temperatures. So things look okay, now, we've got about five inches of rain right where I'm standing here since Thursday. So a lot of rain in a short amount of time, but most of its soaked in.

Paul Yeager: Five inches. That's ridiculous. I guess I didn't look exactly at your dot. How many different storms did that come across in 1, 2, 3?

Chad Bell: I want to say three. I live just about five miles north of where I'm standing, I only had an inch and a quarter for that whole, that whole stretch so even even five miles there was over four inches a difference in rain.  

Paul Yeager: What do you think the area about 50 miles in any direction has had around you? 

Chad Bell: That's about, it's about the same. It's variable. I think, from the map that I saw this morning on the local news, east of here, caught a pretty good amount, maybe similar to what I had here where I'm standing. But then north and west, was in the inch range. And so pretty variable in the area. But there are some pockets like like what I'm standing in where, you know, a couple miles makes a huge difference.

Paul Yeager: Now your spring, when did you finally I think when we talked you'd kind of dribbled a little bit out. But when did you really kind of get going and get everything in the ground. 

Chad Bell: So that last week of April, 1 week of May is really when we got got everything else put in. I want to say that I started corn on a Thursday that last week of April, finishing the rest of it. And soybeans. I started a couple days ahead of that maybe Monday or Tuesday of that last week of April. But we had everything we had our soybeans finished up that I think the May 1 or whatever that Saturday was, and then by the following Saturday had all had all the corn in 

Paul Yeager: Do you find that some of the grain that was in some of the that was in earlier or middle or later has performed better, or at least looked better? 

Chad Bell: Yeah, I'd say maybe the earliest planted is average at best. And then that late April 1 week of May is probably the sweet spot is what it looks like right now here. And then anything after the first week of May start tailing off pretty fast. I did have one field the corn that I planted on May 20. That we had spring tiling done on the field. And we were waiting on some rain to do a little bit of field work to get it ready to plant. And we got three tenths of rain, I think the 13th or 14th of May, which allowed us to do what we wanted to for getting the field ready to plant and then I waited there for another rain chance that never came. So about a week later on the 20th I planted corn and that corn looks the toughest out of everything. It's short, a lot of potassium deficiency pretty much all the way across the field. And there's several areas where the corn didn't come up because the ground was so dry, it just didn't germ. There's a lot of tough looking fields that were planted after that first week of May here and I don't think that that rains gonna turn things around for them. They might kind of slow the bleeding or stop the bleeding. But I think there's been some damage done to a lot of those fields. 

Paul Yeager: We know that knee high by the Fourth of July has long since passed. But do you have anything below that around you?

Chad Bell: My field might be in some areas. But otherwise most a lot of the corn that was put in that late April 1 week of May it's actually starting to shoot some tassels you gotta look pretty hard for him yet. But they're they're there the flag leaf is out on most of that corn and soy here this week and next week we'll probably really be going full tassel and starting pollination. 

Paul Yeager: Mike, would you call the month of June insulting to wheat farmers when you go all that time without rain. I remember our conversation back in April where it was 100 days, 200 days, all these number hundreds of days where you haven't had measurable rain. And then just as it's time to roll the combine, it rains. Is that the ultimate irony?

Mike Schulte:  When we talked in April, it was, it was a much different situation than what we are dealing with today. I think in many instances, producers are thankful for the moisture because we needed it so badly. And it allowed us probably to be able to finish this crop out and have grain fill in areas where producers are probably thinking that there wasn't going to be a crop at all, by no means does the crop you know, as far as yield, look that great across the state. However, it is going to allow us to have something where we thought we were going to have nothing. And so I think for that the producers have been thankful. But it has been extremely challenging trying to get this crop harvested. I think it's probably been one of the more challenging harvest seasons that I've seen in my lifetime. And just talking with other agricultural producers across the state who've maybe even been in this 40 or 50 years the they're saying the same thing. 

Paul Yeager:  The video I saw recently from your state, it's green underneath that wheat that's coming out. So I guess you have to be optimistic there.

Mike Schulte: Yeah, it's, you know, it's just it we are having some problems now with weed pressure in the field. Producers, you know, trying to move as fast as they can, in some instances haven't been able to. There have been some producers have decided to just abandoned fields that they thought that they were maybe even going to be able to harvest even after they had made those management decisions back in April and May now that the weeds have taken over and so now they're going to end up getting that and baling that for hay. Certainly, you know not really great for us from a production standpoint at the Southern Plains but it's just producers are having to weigh all options as they move forward. And it seems like every day there's there's a little bit of a different type of obstacle that we are facing given what we've had to deal with as far as weather just over this this past year for this growing season.  Certainly up in northern Oklahoma, their microclimate is a little bit different than in southern Oklahoma, you'll see corn and soybeans being planted, I think that the corn looks extremely favorable in our state, which is kind of unusual for us, because we do tend to end up being hot and dry later on. I think the verdicts still probably will be out on that if you look at the future forecasts. But things do look different from a standpoint of the summer crops that are out there right now. And even in the panhandle region where they have had moisture. You know, I think producers are hopeful that they're going to be able to irrigate from here on out and maybe have some opportunities with summer crops> It is really amazing what you can do if you just get a little moisture from Mother Nature in that region.


The full discussion will be part of the MtoM release on Tuesday.

Contact: Paul.Yeager@iowapbs.org