With producers now in mid-September harvest mode, it turns out the Mid-South has an excellent corn crop.
With the wall-to-wall TV coverage of hurricane-backed weather, flooding and misery, “folks may find it hard to believe, but the yields have been excellent this year,” says Dan Fromme, LSU AgCenter corn specialist. “For the most part, we had most of the corn out before the latest hurricane weather hit. We might average a state yield record with our previous high around 184 or 185 bushels per acre. That puts it in perspective.
“Since we began corn harvest back in July, rain did slow the harvest down a bit. But we kept plugging along and most of the crop came out of the field unscathed.”
Fromme estimates Louisiana is 90 to 95 percent done with corn harvest.
Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist estimates Mississippi is upwards of 60 percent complete with corn harvest. “There’s a lot of corn still to be brought in.
“We had an excellent corn-growing season and, although we’re not through with harvest, we’re seeing exceptional yields in both irrigated and dryland areas. The irrigated areas required very little irrigation and that has certainly minimized expenses and maximized potential profitability.”
As far as harvest season, “we’ve been kept out of the field for short periods due to weather. The weather during the first couple of weeks of August saw abundant rainfall and those two weeks shut the harvest down more than anything else.
“Then, a couple of weeks ago, the weather associated with Harvey brought wind and rain. That started to cause some stalk lodging, which is probably our biggest concern at the moment. Lodging can hurt in terms of losses as well as being efficient in harvesting.”
With these latest systems, the most rainfall with the most significant effects “was around the Memphis area. They had upwards of 6 inches of rainfall with winds that really tore through fields.”
A similar story can be told in Arkansas.
“We’re finally on the downhill side of harvest,” says Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension corn specialist. “We’re well over three-quarters done, although the last acreage seems to be taking a while with all the rains from the hurricane and tropical storms. We don’t seem to be missing too many rains and that’s slowed us down.
“We have some lodging issues. The longer the corn sits in the field, the more brittle stalks get and it has been windy as well as rainy.”
What about yields?
“I think everyone is pretty happy with where yields have been. Some tell me they’re pulling in the best corn they ever have. There are a lot of big numbers being cited – some so large you wonder if you misheard. But that’s happened so many times, I believe we really do have some great yields in the state. I can’t wait to find out what the final number say.
Kelley speculates that Arkansas’ high corn yields “maybe shouldn’t be too surprising considering the great growing season we had. In Arkansas – and I would guess it would have been largely the same in Mississippi and Louisiana, as well -- we got off to the best planting start in four or five years. And since then we had a lot of things go in our favor. Our early-planted corn came up to exceptional stands.
“We didn’t have the crazy-high temperatures during the day or nighttime. Most of Arkansas had very few days, if any, of 100-degree days. Most never hit 95 degrees, actually.”
On top of that, lots of growers got a break on irrigation. “The rains seemed to come in at the right times. The flip-side to that is when luck wasn’t quite lined up and irrigation schedules called for a watering and then a big rain rolled in. In some of those circumstances, we may have had too much rain.”
Larson says Mississippi corn had a solid foundation. “In terms of insects and disease, there weren’t a whole lot. The biggest factor in determining the better cornfields this year was the best planting season we’ve had in the last five years. There wasn’t a lot of planting until about March 20. But from March 20 through mid-April, most of the state’s corn crop was planted.”
The corn in the state “emerged relatively quickly in uniform stands. We had very few stand issues, as well as planting delays and stand loss associated with saturated soils following planting, like we’ve experienced in the last five years.”
In most of Mississippi, “we were rather dry after planting season into late May. That allowed our corn to establish root systems, gain very good vegetative grow. We did get wet in June and early July and during that growth period corn uses more water than it does at other points and is better equipped to handle stress from abundant rainfall. We may have preferred less rain during that period but the cool nighttime temperatures during June – well below what we’ve seen the last two year -- really set the crop up for success.”
In the face of such positive news for the corn crop, the lonely regret Fromme has is the price. “Considering what the yields are if the price was a little higher it would really help some growers. Regardless, corn might be our bright spot this year – at least compared to cotton, grain sorghum and soybeans.”
For the most part, says Kelley, “I think the corn growers are very pleased. If the price was higher, folks would be out doing somersaults. At least we have good yields in a down price rather than bad prices. That softens the blow.
“In a few areas, we have conventional corn being grown. A lot of that is aimed at specialty markets that pay premiums. In the past 10 years, overall, corn borer pressure hasn’t been too heavy. Now, though, the borer numbers are creeping up – especially in conventional corn fields that have been in the crop for a few years. That’s one thing to keep an eye on.
“The saying is: rain makes grain but also brings diseases. We’ve had some foliar diseases pop up this season: southern rust, various soft rot.
“Driving around looking at fields and plots, there are a lot of pigweeds that need to be dealt with. We have a number of tools to deal with pigweeds and none of us need to let it go to seed. It’s a busy time of year and everyone is out going hard at harvest but don’t neglect the pigweeds.”