Farm Progress Show host farmers David Brix and Marc Padrutt were able to plant corn in the demonstration area north of the showgrounds near Decatur, Ill., during a brief respite from the rain on May 17 — three days before the final planting date for the 86-day variety to mature in time for the Aug. 27-29 show.
Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress events manager, says plants are coming up healthy and strong.
“When we’re in Boone, Iowa, we plant 80-to-85-day corn — we just have to get it in the ground,” Jungmann says. “Fortunately, we’re in Decatur this year, where there’s more heat normally through a summer, so we had the opportunity to back our maturities down. Normally, we plant 94-day, provided we can get in the ground early.”
Jungmann says the seed variety that ended up being planted was “option C,” as the yield won’t be optimal. Still, the corn will likely reach a significant height and have a healthy stalk — important factors for “putting on a show” with the combines that will exhibit harvest capabilities on the fields every day at FPS.
“We’re going to experience a yield hit,” Jungmann says. “But in order to get corn black layered by the middle of August so that it’s reasonable to harvest by the end of the month for the show, it’s what we had to do.”
Brix remembers 2009, a year with an abnormally long winter, and 2013 experienced delayed planting too. These summers were cool and didn’t feature the heat Decatur normally gets that helps to mature the crop in time for the show, so the field demonstrations were limited those years.
“Hopefully, even though we’re late, it’ll still speed along with heat and growing degree days,” Brix says.
Jungmann says half of the fields will be harvested by new equipment before the public arrives, so the machines can be “tested out, tweaked and polished.” Ride ’n’ Drives, tilling, tile drainage installation and a mock gas pipeline strike will take place on freshly harvested fields.
Smart Ag and other companies will showcase autonomous tractors. AeroVironment will demonstrate drones.
What about soybeans?
Brix says he has seven varieties of soybeans for 2019 to test out in plots near the show site, but with the delay in planting, there’s no chance any will be ready in time for the show. That’s why the showgrounds in the soybean capital of the world will continue to demonstrate harvest capabilities exclusively on corn.
“When the show wasn’t here last year, we got a pretty good idea of how to get [soybeans] harvestable in time,” Brix says. “But this year, as everybody knows, there’s been absolutely no luck.”
Jungmann adds that corn is more predictable than soybeans, so vendors can more reliably count on their investment panning out if they’re set up for corn rather than soybeans. Still, Brix will plant a few far-off plots of beans this year, “just to see. It’s an ongoing experiment to see what works.”
“We don't just want to take it on a wing and a prayer and plant 80 acres of valuable real estate into the ground, and come show time, they’re green or they burned up and popped open,” Jungmann concludes. “We have to do the research if we want to do soybean harvests in our future.”