Warm winter leaves farmers weary of pests, disease

The threat of an increase of pests and disease on farmland can increase during a mild winter season, so some Illinois farmers are understandably on edge after this year’s nearly snowless winter.

Russ Higgins, a commercial agriculture educator for the University of Illinois Extension, said a lot of insects survive Illinois winters very well, whether it’s mild or not, but farmers are being encouraged to scout their land and monitor what is happening on their property.

Farmers in northern Illinois might be given advanced notice of pest or disease issues because any development would start showing up in southern Illinois first, Higgins said.

“If we can be wary and watch what is taking place down there, that’ll tell us what to watch out for up here in this part of the state,” Higgins said.

Winter wheat is more likely to be affected by the mild winter than corn or soybeans, Higgins said, and right now, fewer than 500,000 acres of winter wheat is growing in the state of Illinois. Winter wheat goes dormant during winter months, but since this year’s winter was mild, the wheat crop broke dormancy and has survived cold snaps this year, Higgins said.

Other than pests and disease, drought also is a major concern in Illinois. July through August are critical months for corn and soybeans, according to Higgins, and drought can have a major effect on yield.

“The single most limiting factor that we have in crop production despite everything we do is moisture, and that’s the case unless you irrigate your ground, and most of Illinois is non-irrigated,” Higgins said.

Illinois News Network

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