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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Illinois got its shape

I received the following fro Ken Olson by email.  It is interesting so I am sharing it.  Prairie Farmer also published this press release.

Source: Kenneth Olson, 217-333-9639;
News writer: Debra Levey Larson, 217-244-2880;

Original northern border of Illinois was south of Chicago and Lake Michigan

URBANA, Ill. – Chicago residents today might have had a Wisconsin zip code if the originally proposed northern boundary of Illinois had been approved. It was a straight line from the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan to just south of the Rock and Mississippi River confluence. University of Illinois soil scientist Ken Olson said that had the proposed northern border not been changed, the state of Illinois would have a much smaller population and footprint with the northern 51 miles of the Illinois Territory ceded to Wisconsin when it became a state in 1848.

Olson says Illinois has Nathaniel Pope to thank for the additional farmland, population, and lakefront property. The northern border was moved north to allow the linkage of the Great Lakes shipping route to the Illinois and Mississippi river navigation channels, giving Illinois a valuable shoreline on Lake Michigan and a location for a shipping port hub which became Chicago.

“Pope was Illinois Territory’s congressional delegate at the time,” explained Olson. “He and his brother, a Kentucky senator, were able to convince Congress to move the proposed border to its present-day location—and that shift in the northern boundary completely altered the fortunes of Wisconsin and Illinois. In addition to the economic benefits of the Chicago port, Illinois acquired 5.5 million acres of very productive soil for farming.” The linkage of the Great Lakes waterway to the Illinois and Mississippi river waterways provided a northern route to move troops and supplies during the Civil War to avoid the contested Ohio River.

Illinois’s western border location was determined by an intervention of nature in the Pleistocene Era. “Numerous glacial advances covered most of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois,” Olson said. “Meltwaters from these glaciers contributed to the realignment of the Mississippi River, which became the western border when Illinois became a state. Before the Pleistocene glacial period, the ancient Mississippi River passed much farther to the east. The land between the Quad Cities Peoria and Alton would not be part of Illinois. So if the Mississippi River had not been realigned by the glaciers, another 7.5 million acres would belong to the states of Missouri and Iowa.” Illinois would have lost some of its best soils for corn and soybean production.

Looking southwest, Olson said that seismic activity in the New Madrid area and glacial melt waters approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago affected the re-routing of the ancient Mississippi and Ohio rivers to their current locations. He pointed to the modern-day Cache River valley of southern Illinois with its swamps, sloughs, and shallow lakes—remnants of the ancient Ohio River whose confluence with the Mississippi River was once northwest of Cairo.

“Following seismic activity in 1000 A.D., the Cache River valley dropped to its current elevation and was no longer connected to the current Ohio River,” Olson said. “The Cache River valley is deeper at a lower elevation, between 320 and 340 feet, than would otherwise be expected in a slow-moving swampy river system, and the presence of thousand-year-old baldcypress trees confirm the natural conversion of river bottomland into swamplands.

“If all of these waterway-related changes had not occurred, the State of Illinois would only have 22 million acres and would be substantially smaller than its current 35 million acres,” Olson said. The agricultural lands in Illinois would have been reduced by 40 percent, affecting its agricultural productive capacity, which is an economic engine of the State of Illinois.

Olson concluded. “Chicago and Rockford would be in Wisconsin, Cairo and Metropolis in Kentucky, Quincy in Missouri, and Rock Island, Moline, and Peoria would be in Iowa.” The commercial activity from all these cities would not have contributed to Illinois’s economic development.

Olson’s research suggests that the size and shape of Illinois may have been dramatically different without these natural waterway border changes to the west and south and Nathaniel Pope’s intercession on Illinois’s northern boundary.

“How Waterways, Glacial Melt Waters, and Earthquakes Re-aligned Ancient Rivers and Changed Illinois Borders,” was published in the Journal of Earth Science and Engineering and was co-authored by Fred Christensen, an instructor at the University of Illinois Osher Lifelong Learning Center. Olson is a researcher in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. The published paper is available at

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crop Progress

I delivered recommendations north of Springfield today.  Corn along the way is mostly mature and much of it is completely brown. I did not see any whole fields harvested.  North of Springfield was very wet because of rainfall yesterday.  Soybeans are also turning, but I continue to think that there is also SDS damage out there. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oxford Indiana - Home of Dan Patch

Last week, I stumbled upon the small town of Oxford, Indiana.  They are proud to be the home of Dan Patch, a famous Standardbred Racehorse.  The Dan Patch Historical Society site is worth a look.  My grandpa used Dan Patch Tobacco and we had some tins like this. The 1:55 is one of the records that Dan Patch held. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Harvesting Seed Corn

On Friday I happened to pass a field of seed corn being harvested.  You can see the corn picker on the left.  I liked watching the corn being dumped into the truck.  With seed corn, it is all about seed quality.  The corn is harvested on the ear to prevent breakage of the seed coat.  That is also why it is being dumped.  The corn is dried with little or no heat.  Dry corn is shelled and sorted by sizes before treating and bagging. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Interesting Corn Cribs

The past two days I was attending a joint meeting of Indiana and Illinois Soil Classifiers.  It gave me a chance to add to my collection of corn crib photographs.  The top one is now a golf cart shed. 

Now a Golf Cart Shed

Crib with Flag

About to fall down

Very Large Crib

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stalk Nitrate Test

By Randy Darr, President of Soilright Consulting, Inc.

I spent Tuesday walking corn fields in the area taking stalk samples.  After the crop is finished growing, it reaches a point commonly known as “black layer.”  After black layer stalk samples can be taken to find the amount of nitrogen still in the plant.  This is helpful in knowing if more nitrogen was applied than needed.  We also like to take soil nitrogen samples at this time to see how much is left in the soil.  Just because it isn’t in the plant, we shouldn’t assume that nitrogen isn’t in the soil. 

If the plant prematurely dies there will be more nitrogen left in the soil than what we will find in the plant.  I have seen quite a bit of leaf disease in plants.  Stalk quality is really deteriorating faster than normal.  I suspect that there may be more nitrogen left in the soil than in the plant…..but maybe not.  That’s why we take samples.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fayette County Soybeans

I went to Brownstown today to do a septic tank investigation.  Corn is maturing. Soybeans continue to decline because of Sudden Death Syndrome.