Data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that Illinois has 70,700 farm operations that cover 27,000,000 acres of land. This data means nearly 75% of Illinois is farmland, making agriculture an essential part of life. The most valuable crops harvested in Illinois contribute to their success and allow them to continue farming.
With so many farms in Illinois, they also have many farmers markets throughout the state. They rank third in the United States for having the most, so don’t forget to check a few out if you’re in the area.
Many crops are produced throughout the state, but these are the most valuable crops harvested in Illinois, according to the USDA:
Nearly 11 million acres in Illinois are used for growing corn, contributing to the $14,744,600,000 production value. This corn is used for feeding livestock and producing other products, although the area is also known for its sweet corn, as discussed below.
The top counties include McLean, Iroquois, Livingston, LaSalle, and Champaign. McLean County produced 71 million bushels of corn, coming in first in the United States. However, the state ranks second in the nation for producing corn.
Illinois produces more soybeans than any other state in the nation, with a production value of $9,752,400,000. The top soybean-yielding counties in Illinois and nationwide are Piatt, Macon, Sangamon, Scott, and Logan. Piatt County yielded 74.2 bushels of soybeans per acre.
Illinois is known for its winter wheat production, which gets planted in the fall and harvested in June and July. After planting, the plant grows a little before going dormant for a while. It starts growing again in late winter.
In the United States, Illinois ranks third for wheat production with $378,252,000 in production value. Washington, Randolph, and Perry counties produce more winter wheat than any other county in the state.
Winter wheat is a common ingredient in many food items, making it an essential crop for many. Farmers can also double-crop after harvesting winter wheat, meaning they use the same land to produce multiple crops in one crop year. They can do this by planting soybeans into the wheat stubble.
4. Hay and Haylage
Hay and haylage in Illinois have a $258,129,000 production value, making it one of their most valuable crops. These two kinds of preserved forage differ in how they are preserved, their nutritional value, and their moisture content.
Haylage gets cut sooner than hay and is left to wilt instead of drying out. Preservation occurs via fermentation, and then the haylage gets baled before being wrapped in layers of plastic to help maintain the moisture content. This process keeps the crop safe from mold and spores.
On the other hand, farmers don’t harvest hay until sometime between June and August. They preserve it through dehydration during days of sunny weather, which is why it must be harvested later than haylage. The process leads to hay having fewer nutrients and calories than haylage.
Illinois is among the top pumpkin-producing states in the United States, with 40% of the nation’s pumpkins coming from there. Of the $22,411,000 production value for pumpkins, the most came from Tazewell, Kankakee, Mason, and Logan, IL. Pumpkins are in season in the area from August to November.
6. Sweet Corn
Sweet corn is in season in Illinois from June through October, and its production value is $17,443,000. Farmers start planting multiple early varieties around the estimated frost-free date to provide a continuous supply all summer. Once three or four leaves appear on the seedlings for the first planting, a second planting often occurs and can happen until the beginning of July.
Beans in Illinois have a production value of $6,306,000 and include crops like lima beans and snap beans. Planting snap beans every few weeks until early August leads to many farms producing a continuous supply throughout the season.
DeKalb County leads the chart for oak production in Illinois, followed by Henry, Iroquois, Jo Daviess, and Kane counties. Including all counties throughout the state, the production value of Oats in Illinois is $4,482,000. Double-cropping is possible, with oats being great for planting in a recently harvested soybean field.
Summary of the Most Valuable Crops Harvested in Illinois
|Rank||Crop||Value of Production|
|4||Hay and Haylage||$258,129,000|
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