LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas corn farmers are busy harvesting what one expert says is an above-average crop. "It's a good-quality crop with good yields. I'd like to see it go even higher, but it's expected to be 11 bushels higher than the 10-year average," says Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
The Arkansas Agricultural Statistics Service said that 40 percent of the 350,000-acre crop had been harvested as of Aug. 31.
Kelley said the statistics service is forecasting a statewide average yield of 135 bushels an acre, compared to 134 bushels in 2002 and a 10-year average of 124 bushels. The record of 145 bushels was set in 2001.
Preliminary reports show Extension verification fields are averaging from 180 to 200 bushels an acre, Kelley said. That may go down as the rest of the fields at various locations in the state are cut.
He said test weights, a measurement of quality, have been good. "Most of the measurements I've seen in the verification plots have been 58 to 60 pounds per bushel. Fifty-six is the standard."
He said Arkansas farmers did a good job of raising corn, and they got help from the weather this year. A number of farmers reported not having to irrigate as much because of favorable rains in late June.
Kelley said farmers have substantially increased corn acreage in the last 10 years. He said the 350,000-acre corn crop this year is more than double the 10-year average acreage of 171,000. Some veteran corn farmers have substantially increased corn acreage in recent years, he said, and others have gotten into it only recently. He noted that one farmer who had never grown corn before two or three years ago is now raising at least 1,000 acres of corn.
Raising corn can benefit farmers.
"Some cotton farmers want to rotate to another crop because they're having trouble with nematodes. Corn helps reduce the nematode numbers the next year when they rotate back into cotton," Kelley said.
There's another advantage related to harvest efficiency. "If farmers can get their corn planted early enough and the weather cooperates, they can go directly from harvesting corn to harvesting rice, and there's no overlap," Kelley said.
Growing corn can be challenging, as some farmers in northeast Arkansas found out this year.
Kelley said storms went through several counties in late July and blew over corn crops. Some farmers bought a special attachment that fits on the header of their combine and helps pick up the downed corn, making harvest possible.
He said Jackson County Agent Randy Chlapecka reported that his county's farmers have been pleased with the results of the attachment.
"You should be able to harvest most of the crop with this equipment if you take your time," Kelley said.
Most Arkansas corn ends up feeding poultry. Much of the Jefferson County corn crop, for instance, is grown under contract and goes to a local Tyson feed mill, according to Kelley.
Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.