Farmers count on chemical herbicides to keep their fields weed-free. But an international panel of scientists who studied two of the most heavily used farm chemicals to determine whether they could cause cancer, said exposure to weed-killing chemicals could come at a cost. In the last few months, scientists brought together by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, considered glyphosate and 2,4-D.

Illinois now has an official state vegetable: corn.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into law today without fanfare.

However, he's scheduled to attend an annual sweet corn festival this evening in Chatham, a suburb of Springfield. Local elementary school students had promoted making sweet corn the state vegetable as a class project.

Chatham Elementary School

Chatham Elementary School students had a lesson Thursday in how government works. Their proposal to make sweet corn the official state vegetable passed the state Senate.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 800, Republican Sen. Sam McCann from Carlinville, says not all responses have been positive.

"I had a couple of emails from folks around the state saying that... while the city walls are seemingly crumbling, why are you focusing on something like this?" he said. "And of course the answer couldn't be more clear. We have to invest in the future leaders of our state and our nation."

Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath.

It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere.

flickr/United Soybean Board

Agricultural runoff is a problem in Illinois and many other farm states.  Nitrogen, phosphorous and chemicals help with yields, but too much winds up in the water supply.   That creates problems like algae growth that robs the water of oxygen, killing off aquatic life. 

Jean Payne represents fertilizer and chemical dealers in the state.  She says a training program will launch this winter in an effort to get farmers better educated on how to apply nutrients to their crops, including the best time for application and proper amounts. 

Corn Husking Can Still Be A Hands On Job

Oct 13, 2014

Dick Humes squinted and sweat as he moved down a row of corn. He sliced through the husk with a metal hook in his right hand, snapped the ear from its stalk with his left, and threw it over his shoulder into a wagon rolling alongside him.

Every other second, the corn hit the floor of the wagon with a thud. Humes was setting a steady pace for the men’s 50-and-older division at the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition.


Farmers will produce a record-breaking corn harvest this year, surpassing earlier expectations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has revised upward its estimate of this year's corn harvest to 14 billion bushels.  
That exceeds last year's 13.9 billion bushel record.  

Soybean production also will set a new record at 3.8 billion bushels, beating the 2009 harvest of 3.4 billion bushels.  

Is Corn Dust Killing Bees?

May 29, 2014
Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick, long, sturdy gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn and adjusts a yellow plastic flap that traps some of the pollen the bees bring back to their hive.

Purdue University Extension

Despite what they may be thinking now, Midwest grain farmers and backyard gardeners alike may be thankful for the recent arctic temperatures before 2014 is out.

That’s because soil that’s frozen solid from weeks of below average temperatures isn’t exactly a cozy spot for hibernating insects that feed on crops as soon as the spring thaw comes.

Harvest Desk: Ethanol At A Crossroads

Jan 21, 2014
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

A steady stream of semi-trailers rolls across the scales at the E Energy ethanol plant near the town of Adams in southeast Nebraska. The smokestack behind the scale house sends up a tall plume of white steam. The sweet smell of fermenting corn is in the air.

E Energy buys 65 million bushels of corn each day from area farmers and turns it into 65 million gallons of ethanol each year.

Falling corn prices and questions about ethanol demand could lead Illinois farmers to plant fewer acres of corn this year.  

Patrick Kirchhofer is manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau. He tells the (Peoria) Journal Star that farmers are instead taking a closer look at soybeans this year. That's after several years of increasing corn production fueled by higher prices.  


U.S. farmers harvested more corn in 2013 than in 2012, while the soybean harvest declined slightly, according to USDA reports released Friday. 

In 2013, Illinois farmers saw the best soybean yields in the nation, outpacing the soy heavyweight of Iowa. In 2013, the state of Illinois reported 49 bushels per acre, while Iowa farmers only got 45 bushels per acre out of their fields last year.

Expected Bumper Crop Has Corn Prices Dropping

Oct 23, 2013
Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

On a clear fall day in central Iowa, Aaron Lehman climbed into the cab of his green combine with a screwdriver to do some maintenance. He was hoping his corn had a couple more weeks to grow before harvesting because the price per bushel this fall is much lower than it has been for the past three years.

Corn farmers have been riding high prices for the last few years. But an expected bumper crop has prices falling this harvest season, and many economists expect the price of corn to drop to its lowest level in recent years.

Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Last summer’s drought knocked the nation’s corn exports to the mat.  And while U.S. farmers may be getting up from that punch, it may take them longer to regain their footing in international markets.

The State Journal-Register's Business Editor Tim Landis joins us to talk about the possibility of faster freight trains along Springfield's Third Street corridor and an upcoming corn crop survey in Sangamon County:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers will come through with the predicted corn crop despite the Midwest's wet spring that delayed planting.  
Some states _ including Michigan, Nebraska and Texas _ planted more corn than expected, which will make up for the loss in Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer.  
Friday's annual acreage report is based on farmer surveys, and surprised farmers, analysts and commodities traders. Many expected the number of corn acres planted to fall by about 2 million acres.