For some Illinois farmers, 2011 has been a trying year.

With yields coming in less than many hoped and expected, Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Extension agronomist, offers some thoughts on the 2012 cropping season.

“The weather stress on the 2011 crop was severe, but we still got a crop,” Nafziger said. “Such weather 30 years ago would have done much more damage to yield than it did this year. “That’s because breeding works — it has given us crops that grow better and tolerate stress somewhat better than they did at one time.”

The U of I variety testing data can be viewed at http://vt.cropsci.illinois.edu/. This website shows results from a range of sites that represent both stress and good conditions.

Nafziger recommends looking for both high yields and consistency when buying seed, with the emphasis on consistency for the fields with average or below-average yield potential.

Rainfall from July through October across central Illinois totaled 6 to 10 inches, which is 4 to 10 inches below normal, leaving soils dried out over much of the region. At least half of this rainfall came after September 1, by which time the corn crop had more or less stopped taking up water, and use by the soybean crop was declining.

“When there’s no crop and temperatures turn cool, most of the precipitation we get stays in the soil,” he said. “If we get close to normal rain and snow over the next five months, the soils should be fully recharged as we come into the spring.

“Still, it could be late winter until we see tile lines running again in some areas, and a dry winter could leave some fields short by spring.”

Many discussions will take place this winter about the widespread yield problems with continuous corn in 2011. Nafziger said the one thing that is relevant now is whether or not part of this problem came from the large amount of fall tillage that took place in corn stalks last fall, the application of ammonia under dry soil conditions last fall, and then driving on these soils when they were still wet underneath to till and plant this past spring.